IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart and staff measured various portions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway frontstretch this week, plugged in section speed data and talked with numerous drivers in an effort to determine the best option for two-wide restarts for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 with respect to safety and competition.
The determination, which was laid out at the drivers’ meeting May 27:
• IZOD IndyCar Series drivers proposed a mid-range RPM, second-gear restart (about 115-120 mph) when they hit the restart line.
• That will be 900 feet before the start/finish line (where the refueling tank for Simona de Silvestro, the first car at pit in, will be on Race Day), which will put the speed at about 150 mph at the start/finish line. Drivers are not allowed to improve their position until they cross the start/finish line.
• It’s 1,800 feet from de Silvestro’s pit box to the turn-in point of Turn 1, which puts the speed at about 183 mph (the start/finish line is not in the middle of the frontstretch).
• Three car lengths are required between rows.
• Drivers are to get in double file coming off Turn 2 (using the paving seams as reference on the backstretch).
“I’ve had several conversations with a lot of the drivers about what the process for restarts is going to be like and there’s a lot of varied opinions on where it should be, how fast it should be, what the spacing should be,” Barnhart said. “Most of the responses to what we’ve proposed has been ‘that all makes sense.’
“The track at 183 is a lot less line-dependent. They then should have the ability to go through Turn 1 two-wide and they’ll start to sort it out in the short chute and Turn 2, and then they have the whole five-eighths-mile backstretch to sort it out even further before they get into Turn 3 at terminal velocity. The later we go at 115 (mph) then the slower you’ll be in Turn 1, and the slower we make Turn 1 the more congestion you’ll have there.
“When you start figuring out how many feet per second you’re traveling from the start/finish line to the turning point of Turn 1, you don’t have time to pass somebody anyway. If a guy waits until the pylon to swing out to pass somebody, he’s not going to get there.”
The speed at the restart line will be close to what start of race is, but considerably slower than restarts of the past between Turns 3 and 4. Drivers have expressed concern about the outside line on two-wide restarts because of tire wear “marbles” and the speed. To address the former, four sweepers will be employed – in tandem at each end of the 2.5-mile racetrack – to collect “marbles” in the turns during each caution.
“(The drivers’) concerns are valid because it’s their butts on the line out there and it’s the Indy 500 and they want to do everything they can to be in position to win,” Barnhart said. “When you are making efforts to do the best you can for everybody, there is going to be a scenario that just didn’t work out well for someone.
“The diversity of the tracks we run adds to the challenge of doing this because of each track’s (road/street courses, superspeedways and short ovals) unique characteristics. It would be easier if we were an all-oval series. While this is a new process and has its challenges, no matter what we do as a series and what we do in terms of laying out the procedure, ultimately it’s in their hands.
"They have the steering wheel, they have the gas pedal, they have the brake pedal and they’re going to make decisions based on proximity of other cars, traffic and other choices. That’s all part of being a race driver."