Should They Ditch The Double-File Re-Starts?

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For the last couple of days, I’ve read comments from more than just a few fans of the IZOD IndyCar Series that say they should ditch the double-file re-starts and do it now. Their logic is that if things were that crazy in turn one of St. Petersburg, what will they be like in narrow confines like Barber or Long Beach? Well, it will certainly be interesting, but I don’t think they need to dump the rule now.

I was not in favor of the double-file re-starts, when it was first announced back in January. I didn’t get as wrapped up about it as some fans did. My main objection was that it looked like the series was copying NASCAR just for the sake of copying NASCAR. I saw no real reason for it.

But now that the season has started, I believe that The IZOD IndyCar Series should stick with it – at least for a while. Now, if they are wadding up six or seven cars on each re-start – something might eventually have to change or be tweaked. But to panic and reverse course after one race, would be foolish.

The question I keep asking myself is; do they really need to tweak anything? I still have to think that the drivers are going to have to exert a little more patience and discipline. I’m not a driver and I have no earthly idea what it’s like to accelerate and decelerate so quickly, with cars all around you that are trying to squeeze into the same small place that you are. But I know that it’s possible. Drivers in Formula One do it all the time. These cars aren’t near as powerful or nimble as an F1 car, but I would think that the good drivers could adjust their driving style.

After all, that’s the sign of a good driver – one who is versatile enough to conform to whatever driving conditions they face, whether it’s rain, wind, heat, cold, new rules, whatever. The successful drivers will adapt.

Like CART in the eighties and early nineties, The IZOD IndyCar Series prides itself on the versatility of its drivers and their ability to adapt and adjust to multiple circuits. Helio Castroneves shouldered quite a bit of the blame for Sunday’s opening lap crash, and rightfully so. But Marco Andretti was also trying to pick off as many spots as he could going into that first turn. We can write St. Petersburg off as a learning experience. Hopefully, the drivers learned something that they can carry into the rest of the season – that is, don’t get greedy.

As much as I hesitate to even acknowledge this, the overnight TV ratings averaged a 1.4. That is very good considering they were hoping just to get anything over a 1.0. Perhaps it was the threat of a looming disaster that made people tune in. When they saw the melee on the opening lap, they possibly decided to stick around for more. Is that the kind of fan we want? No, not for the long term, but we’re trying to grow and sell a product. Right now, I would think the series would take any fan they could get. Sunday night, I heard a caller on Wind Tunnel say that he quit watching Indy cars in the late eighties because it got boring. He tuned into Sunday’s race, liked what he saw and even called his brother to get him to tune in.

Please understand that I’m not advocating a demolition derby – far from it. But now that the season has started with the rule in place, I don’t think they need to tinker with it. Too many other proposed rule changes have been rescinded in the last few weeks. Although I was glad to see most of them changed, and I applaud Randy Bernard with having the foresight to change them – too many rule changes and back-tracking can give the impression of indecisiveness and weak leadership. We know that’s not the case with Randy Bernard, but causal fans and more importantly – potential sponsors don’t know this.

So now it’s up to the drivers to get this right. They should be able to police themselves to make sure what happened Sunday doesn’t become a regular occurrence. Sure, it might bring in a few curious viewers, but it looks like the drivers don’t know what they’re doing. It also becomes expensive repairing the cars and to overcome a points deficit. It’s one thing if a driver wants to put his or her own car at risk, but in such close quarters other drivers that chose to take a prudent approach gets taken out and have their day or possibly season ruined. Such was the case with Mike Conway on Sunday. After showing such promise throughout the weekend, his day was over before it got started – simply due to the over-zealousness of some other driver.

So I hope Randy Bernard and the powers that be will give this a chance to sort itself out. Now is not the time to panic. Somehow they need to force the drivers to make it work. It wasn’t a great idea to begin with, but now that the season has started with it – they need to stick with it.

George Phillips

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16 Responses to “Should They Ditch The Double-File Re-Starts?”

  1. I don’t see any reason to change it. You’re absolutely right – these are supposed to versatile quick driver; they can learn.
    Much of the real carnage happened at the first turn of the first, which is always double-file anyway.

  2. Jim in Wilmington Says:

    Everyone keeps comparing the double file re-starts to NASCAR, but the real model should be the World of Outlaws (WoO) sprint car series. They’ve been doing it forever and they’re open wheel cars to boot. They have a power to weight ratio about the same as a F-1 car and they do it on dirt without a pace car. The key is they know that if they are not lined up properly, or if they get out of line before passing the start cone, the start will be waved off and they have to do it all over again (they do have the benefit that caution laps don’t count which I certainly do not advocate). They probably average one waved off start per race, but ther’s almost never any contact on the start. My point is, doble file restarts are done safely by high powered open wheel cars on a nightly basis, so the guys just need to get good at it. It will take some time, but I think it will eventually be very good for the series.

    Jim

  3. The problem I saw all Sunday was the old car. I get so tired of seeing cars on the tarmac with little damage that cannot be restarted and cause a full course yellow. Once they get to 2012, they might want to invest in some F1 crane technology and combined with cars the drivers can start will keep most of these races green with a local yellows.

    As for the double file restarts, I love them. The drivers will learn to cool it and it will be just awesome on the ovals.

  4. The Lapper Says:

    Cheers for the “Double File Restarts!” Dario, by the way, over-took Will Power on a double file restart. I’m sure he likes them and I am The Lapper.

  5. As stated the “big one” was on the start which has not changed. Double file restarts were the ONLY thing that was worth watching, otherwise it was just another BORING street race. The drivers need to live up to the “best drivers in the world” hype.

  6. Oops, I picked the wrong option in the poll. I should have selected “Other”, because I believe that IndyCar should enforce a distance of 15-20m between rows. That way, drivers would have room to brake early or late with lower chances of hitting another car, while keeping the field more or less grouped.

  7. Amen. Why do people keep forgeting that the start of the race has always been double file? That’s where the carnage happened at St. Pete, just like last year in Sao Paolo. I put that on the drivers. Jim in Wilmington makes a great point about Sprint Cars. If they can figure it out, so can “The World’s Best Drivers”

    The league needs to ride it out for awhile and see how it goes. I think the real benefit might be on the ovals.

  8. I thought the field looked organized and awesome both on the start and on the restarts…until they crashed of course.

    My thought is some of the drivers thought they could take advantage of other drivers being more cautious than usual in the first turn. And I wasn’t really shocked that it was Helio and Marco.

    Maybe they should be “the best drivers in the world when given proper spacing.”

    Looking forward to Barber.

  9. Christopher Leone Says:

    Give Marco and Helio the front row every race and we won’t have a problem. ;)

    In all seriousness, no, this shouldn’t be a problem, they can either learn to adapt or crash enough cars that they lose their rides. In my opinion, though, we need to start the season with a track that’s not so tight. Everybody’s still shaking some of the rust off – starting on a street course seems like a recipe for disaster no matter how you look at it.

  10. HB Donnelly Says:

    You mention that people are wondering what will happen when the tracks get narrower, but part of the problem with St. Pete is the width of the straight. It’s just like the old CART races at Cleveland: the drivers see a car in front of them and on the outside and what seems like infinite space to the inside, and they go for broke. Barber will be better because the drivers should put a little more thought into it and turn 1 there is a large-radius turn that will string the cars out a bit.

  11. The double file restart has been very very good to Simona. Just sayin’.

  12. I was against implementing it before the season, but now that it’s here, I’m against junking it just because of some whining from various quarters.

    Yes. **Whining**.

    Either the league, the drivers, and the fans accept that these are top-notch drivers, or they give in and show the world that they need special rules that don’t apply in other similar situations. F1 starts are double file (admittedly, restarts aren’t, but the huge problem at St. Pete was the blasted **start**). And as someone above pointed out: World of Outlaws.

    Normally, for safety’s sake I’d defer to nearly anything (not everything, but close) that a driver complains about regarding safety. But this one’s an exception; to me, the safety aspect is a red herring. This is just change that the drivers and some fans don’t like. The risk has been demonstrated in other open wheel series to be minimal. I’m really sorry to phrase it this way, but: The drivers have to suck it up and make it work. They’re good enough to, they just have to do it.

  13. While I was against the double-file starts at first, I do think the league needs to give it some time to see if things improve. These are supposedly professional drivers, they need to adjust to the rules they are given. I may feel differently if there is carnage every start of every race, but it’s the responsibility of the drivers to use good judgement. Hopefully, they will learn with experience.

  14. I have no problem with the double file re-starts. WHere I DO think there is a problem is with the SLOWED restarts. I am all for keeping the field tighter than it has been in the past, but, to be perfectly honest, if you’re going to have 26 (or 33) cars coming to the flag at 60 mph, some will accelerate fater than others and you’re going to have too many cars trying to occupy the same piece of real estate.

    This is a problem which may well be exacerbated NEXT year, when turbochargers are back in the equation.

    That being said, what we HAD until this year was not satisfactory either. Too many times you had half the field through the first corner while others were still crossing the line. My suggestion is to add 50-75 mph to the start speed and spread the field SLIGHTLY.

    No solution is going to work, however, if the drivers do not exercise a modicum of PATIENCE. You cannot win ANY race going into the first turn of the first lap, but you can sure as Hell lose it. What happened on the start Sunday was two drivers, Marco and Helio, trying to pass too many cars going into the first turn, and BOTH trying to occupy the same piece of ground. Can you say, “Contact?”

  15. It is to consider that, if we want to be precise, double file restart only caused one caution…the other contacts have been caused or at the start (where nothing changed) or after a few corners…

  16. Marco Andretti needs to go back to driving school he’s turning into Paul Tracy
    I’m a big Mario and Michael fan but not Marco

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