Randy’s First Real Hiccup

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Next Tuesday will mark eleven months that Randy Bernard has been on the job as CEO of INDYCAR (my first time to put the non-acronym in all-caps). In that time he has made incredible strides in bring the IZOD IndyCar Series to a level we only dreamed about just a year ago. For what he has done in his time on the job, I would give him an A+. He has far exceeded my wildest expectations.

None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. That goes for Randy Bernard, as well. Aside from the atrocious series championship trophy, Randy has had very few hiccups. He’s had one recently, though.

When he announced the double-file re-starts at the State of IndyCar Address a couple of weeks ago, many fans and drivers were grumbling. As I said in a post last week, I wasn’t really concerned over it. One thing that concerned drivers was the fact that the lapped cars would still maintain their position on the track. A top driver was likely to find a rookie or sub-par driver in the same row next to them. Well, Randy Bernard responded with following the NASCAR model and moving all of the lapped cars to the back of the field.

This really got the fans stirred up – and for good reason. If a driver goes down a lap by pitting just before a yellow comes out, they’re screwed. If the same driver works his or her way back towards the front and another caution comes out, they go back to the end of the line. Of course, this opens the door for the potential of NASCAR’s worst invention – the Lucky Dog. Almost universally, no IndyCar fan wants to see that ridiculous rule adopted from NASCAR.

To make matters worse, it appears that when the double-file restarts were first presented to the owners back in November – they voted to adopt the entire NASCAR model on re-starts. Does that mean the Lucky Dog too? God, I hope not.

Based on what I’ve heard, which is the same thing that you’ve heard; it seems that Randy Bernard bungled this one. It sounds like he got the owners to buy into one plan, then somewhere along the way the plan changed by the State of IndyCar meeting a couple of weeks ago. As soon as it was announced to go into effect at the first oval (the Indianapolis 500), Brian Barnhart immediately started backtracking and started talking about starting it at Texas instead. Last Thursday, Robin Miller posted a story saying they have decided to adopt the full NASCAR model of shuffling lapped traffic to the back. It was also brought out that they may decide to use double-file re-starts on non-ovals, as well.

One certainly gets the impression that this thing was not thought through at all. Brian Barnhart is fond of the phrase “unintended consequences”. Well, it doesn’t sound like anyone at 16th & Georgetown thought about any of the unintended consequences of this rule change.

I was OK with double-file re-starts when it was first announced. I wasn’t crazy about it, but it didn’t really matter to me one way or the other. But when they started changing the rules on the fly, it reeked of some of the poor decision-making process of the previous regime.

This was so unlike any other Randy Bernard tactic, that I would be surprised if he is the one making these calls. Since his expertise seems to lie in the marketing and promotion of the series, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had deferred to the head of competition on this one. That would be Mr. Brian Barnhart – President of Competition for the series. That would explain the quirkiness and indecision that we have seen these past two weeks on this issue. These were the same type moves that plagued the old “IRL” for years. Suddenly, one of them is rearing its ugly head again.

Whatever they do; they need to decide something, come up with a plan and stick to it. If the drivers are so unhappy with this plan, why weren’t they consulted before? If they were, why do they seem so shocked? To me, this whole thing seems like one massive lack of communication between parties, which to this point, has not been a trademark of the Randy Bernard regime.

If this fumbling about has been the work of Brian Barnhart, then Randy Bernard should take whatever measures possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If this was Mr. Bernard’s doings, I’m hoping this is just an aberration and not a sign of things to come. In the end, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is, because Randy Bernard is the one who is ultimately in charge. He’s allowed a hiccup now and then after all the good work he has done. Let’s just hope that this one miscue is just that. We all make mistakes.

George Phillips

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20 Responses to “Randy’s First Real Hiccup”

  1. I am an IndyCar fan and I LOVE the Lucky Dog rule. Can they get Aarons to sponsor it?

  2. Double file restarts–anything to improve their restarts–is good. I think that was the original idea. I think sending lap cars around came about after the announcement when the driver’s started complaining. They didn’t like double file at all, but they really didn’t like the idea of a leader starting next to a backmarker. I’ve not heard anything about the Lucky Dog–that does seem like taking the manipulation a bit far.

    One positive about sending lap cars back is it might be simpler for fans to keep track of cars, especially on road courses.

    It does seem like it was put out there too quickly before doing their research. I would assume Bernard did it because he’s not shy about making changes. And I do think it’s no more than a hiccup.

    And you’re right about that trophy. Nice attempt to do something out of the box, but in this case, I’d rather have the box.

  3. I actually support the way they’re doing double file restarts. I haven’t seen any major issues with moving the lap down cars back in NASCAR, so I don’t see what the big deal is. They could accomplish the same thing with a single file restart, though, and it would be a little more “fair”, but either way, I’m pretty happy with the starts and restarts.

    Randy’s biggest misstep though, that’s easy. The Texas Double header idea.

  4. My biggest concern with pushing the lapped cars to the back is that IndyCars and NASCARs are different. In NASCAR it is relatively easy to push through traffic and pass dozens of cars very quickly but in IndyCar it takes much longer to pass a couple cars and running order is much more stable. Once a car goes a lap down they are effectively eliminated from competition because it will be virtually impossible to pass ALL the cars on the lead lap over the course of a single green flag period regaining a position at the tail end of the lead lap.

  5. I agree with the premise that the powers-that-be, whoever they are, should settle on a decision and stick with it. If the “Lucky Dog” ever becomes part of the INDYCAR rulebook, then you might as well adopt the green/white/checker finish, and call it “NASCAR Open Wheel.”

    Seriously, I can live with the double file restarts, but my problem is they can’t handle SINGLE file restarts OR double file starts to races. How in the WORLD are they going to enforce double file re-starts?

    THere needs to be a whole lot more waving off of starts that are not properly aligned. It’s become such a joke that it’s almost “get through the last corner before the flag and all bets are off.” With the technology that is available, why can’t they enforce an “acceleration cone” just as they do pit road speed limits? A “speed trap” a designate distance from the start/finish line would do the trick, with a violation subject to either a stop-and-go, or, if too many are in violation, a wave off. I’m really not trying to make this more complicated than it is, but when you have half of the field running off and hiding from the other half, there HAS to be a way to keep the intended “close up racing” going, at least through the start/finiish line.

  6. Savage Henry Says:

    Its interesting that many forms of racing seem to have adopted a 2+2 = 10 method of problem solving. From my point-of-view the problem with INDYCAR restarts was the leader starting in Turn 3 and/or playing the brake check-up game that left the field a mess. Instead, they could have just gone back to enforcing discipline on starts and restarts and been done with it.

    That said, this isn’t as ridiculously convoluted as the “movable rear wing” rule that F1 is trying to implement this year (try to figure that one out). If you want more overtaking, just race on tracks that have legitimate passing zones. Petrov said that is was easy to keep Alonzo behind him at Yas Marina because there’s nowhere to pass there. Way to wreck a historic championship fight, Bernie!.

    Of course NASCAR has been overengineering solutions to problems for years (hello COT). Maybe the other series have seen what NASCAR has been doing and then noted their growth over the last 20 years and said “let’s do that”.

    Seems a shame. Racing has developed technologies that have enabled cars to go from 0-100 in 2.8 seconds and potentially drive upside down, but they can’t handle passing and restarts.

  7. Restart rule will be an improvement over lackluster parade restarts of yore. Don’t like it? Get over it. And, hey, “greatest drivers in the world”: grow a set, and race for it! All this “we don’t want to be like NASCAR” crap is an example of the same pride that destroyed the open wheel series in the 90’s. Indycar should continue to develop it’s whatever-it-takes attitude to re-institute itself as a relevant sporting body. Or else, spend the rest of it’s existence as the shell of itself that sold it’s soul to “be” Formula 1. Drivers: man up!!! Going green next time by!

    • Oilpressure Says:

      First of all, this wasn’t really about the pro’s & cons of double-file re-starts. Instead it was the seemingly knee-jerk reaction style with which it was handled, that had me puzzled. As for changing the way in which IndyCar has conducted itself – I’m all for it, and I think most fans are. The TG model from 1996 wasn’t working. I have applauded almost every change that Randy Bernard has made.

      Regarding the “pride” that you claim destroyed open-wheel racing in the 90’s – that wasn’t pride. That was arrogance, There’s a difference. The pride of open-wheel racing is the rich heritage that this sport has. It’s a heritage that is much deeper and very different from NASCAR. Most of us want to keep it that way. We don’t want to see our series follow the cheap gimmicks that have led NASCAR into its own slide into dismal ratings and attendance.

      As for scoffing at the “greatest drivers in the world” – that’s not a claim, it’s a goal. – GP

      • Hey! Whoa! I’m a long-time open wheel fan! My attitude in writing was intended to BUMP for the current trends that we see in Indycar! I really don’t feel this was a knee-jerk reaction; I grew up racing with my Dad as he officiated at local tracks. We always learned a lot from watching what others doing well were trying. The same holds true with indycar. If it works, use it! improve on it! Make it work for you! As for scoffing, no offense intended. I love these guys. I, too am proud of the heritage of the series, the speedway, and the sport. But, pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and I agree, it did take the form of arrogance. thus the downfall; on that we agree. Indycar has a new lease on life, and I want it to succeed. I am an avid Helio fan! I want to get my Mom to at least two or three indycar events this year to see her fave Helio! I was only bumping the excitement I think this will provide!

  8. Leigh O'Gorman Says:

    From a European perspective, Randy’s first real hiccup for me is that there is still no TV deal for IndyCar over here for 2011 or beyond…
    Hoping it gets fixed soon.

  9. …..plus, just wanted to say, i really oilpressure. Keep up the good work.

  10. …meant “I really enjoy oilpressure.” Long day. Sorry.

    • Oilpressure Says:

      No harm done. It just sounded like you were trumpeting for IndyCar to adopt everything that is NASCAR. My complaint was the way they came out with their original stance, then started backtracking and changing their plans on the fly. It seemed very un-Randy Bernard-like. He usually seems to think everything through. That’s why I wonder if someone else has their fingerprints all over this and he’s just the unfortunate messenger. That was the original point behind this post, but the comments quickly went in another direction. Sorry to snap you off. – GP

  11. I’ll take the GWC too. Anything to improve the show like standing starts on road courses. I am all for it. Take the good things NASCAR and F1 have to offer and ignore the bad ones like the Chase, their awful new point system and Bernie.

  12. Regarding your concern — and it was my concern as well — about someone with a competitive car going a lap down for any reason and not being able to get their lap back because of the proposed new rule not allowing lapped cars to maintain their position after a yellow.

    A questioner in Robin Miller’s Mailbag this week wrote about the very same concern, as follows:

    “…if you use this new method and you go a lap down your day is over. You’ll never end up on the lead lap unless you happen to pit out of sequence before a yellow happens. If you were just lapped and the yellow comes out, they move you to the back a lap down. Now instead of only having to pass the lead car, you have to pass everyone again and hope that another yellow doesn’t come out or its back to the back again.”

    Miller’s answer:

    “No, you can still get your lap back because when the leaders pit first, you will stay out, get back on the lead lap and then be waved around to the rear of the lead pack.”

    Does that sound right? If that is the way it would work, then our concerns may be for naught.

    • That puts you at the back of the lead lap with old tires and low fuel.

      That strategy also does not work for the lapped drive that is mid-pack and behind somebody on the lead lap that decides to not pit (to get the lead, on alternate pit strategy, etc).

      • “That puts you at the back of the lead lap with old tires and low fuel.”

        Then, you’re left doing what you would have been doing without the new rule changes: waiting for a second yellow flag in order to level the difference between you and everybody else on the lead lap. In the old system, if you pitted just before a yellow and got caught a lap down, you’d have to pass your way up through the leaders and then catch another yellow, because there’s basically no way to make up an entire lap under green flag conditions. Or, if everybody in front of you pitted and you wound up the first car in line (i.e at the back of the lead lap), you’d get a wave around, just like I think they’ll do if you’re first in line but at the tail of the lead lap under the new rule.

        You are right that you can get screwed by one (or two, or just a handful) of lead lap cars staying out, then you get put behind all the other lead lap cars. That is worse, but I think it’s a relatively small cost in order to make sure that the lap down cars don’t screw up restarts, like in the case that you have the leader, then four lap down cars, then 2nd, 3rd, 4th, like what happened a lot before (I distinctly remember this happeneing at Kansas last year, because Pressdog and I talked about it right after the race). I’d rather that the leaders have a shot at changing position, especially late in the race.

        Really, I don’t think that this rule change requires an adoption of the “Lucky Dog”. I don’t think it’s all that different from the way it would have been without putting all lap down guys to the back of the pack. If somebody catches a bad break, there are still ways to get your lap back, but under certain circumstances, it might be a little tougher than before. Under other circumstances, it’ll be exactly the same as before. I’m really not too stressed about this at all. I’m willing to see what happens.

  13. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    The message in all of this is, if one has a competitive RACE car and comes to the track with the intention of RACING, there is a fairly good chance that as long as their pit crew doesn’t fail them, that he or she has a better than average chance of either winning or placing well…

  14. I feel like the double-file restarts will be fine if Barnhart handles them well. Then again, to that end, I’m concerned. And if they don’t work, I think Randy is astute enough to recognize that possibility quickly and compensate for it by either making modifications or dumping the concept entirely.

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