Some Changes I Can Like
Those that know me and those that have been following this site for a while know how much I detest change. This is not due to my age. I resisted change as a teenager. Nothing appeals to me more than a good comfortable rut. I live by the mantra of “Change is bad”. If something works, why change it? My wife finds my resistance to change especially irritating when she gets in one of her “shake things up” moods.
But not all change is bad. If something is changed and offers an actual improvement, I’m all in. I was one of the first of my friends to embrace High-Definition television. I bought my first HD set fifteen years ago, and I’ve been an HD snob ever since. Why? Because I could see that the picture was vastly improved with what we all grew up with.
When it comes to the Indianapolis 500, I’m very reluctant to accept any change. I want it to be the exact same that I grew up with. I’m very slow to embrace any change in the appearance of IMS, any change in the pre-race ceremonies or anything that effects the race. To say I am an Indianapolis 500 traditionalist is putting it mildly.
When it comes to the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series, I tend to be a little more flexible. Perhaps it’s because the governing bodies have changed so much in my lifetime, or because the rules and technology have been altered so many times over the years that I’ve become immune to it. But change is a way of life in today’s world of motor racing.
Shortly after NASCAR unveiled their radical way of restructuring races that reeked of desperation; IndyCar announced changes for race weekends as well.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief that IndyCar is not instituting segmented races and a convoluted points system the way NASCAR did. In fact, I approve of most, if not all of the changes announced by IndyCar on Monday. Some we knew were coming and some were a complete surprise.
One of the ones we had heard were coming was that teams would get an extra set of the red alternate tires on non-oval race weekends. What is significant about this is that teams will be allowed to practice on Fridays with the one set in order to get a feel for the tire. Under the old rules, teams would practice on Friday and Saturday on the primary back tires. They were not allowed to run the red tires at all until the qualifying session. That sometimes posed problems – especially for inexperienced drivers who had trouble setting up the DW12 anyway. Now there will be no surprises in qualifying for any of the drivers.
Another change that we had gotten wind of was that qualifying for two of the night races – Phoenix and Gateway – would take place on the same day as the event, which is Saturday. Friday would consist of two practices, the second of which would occur in the same time slot as the race on the next night. That makes a lot of sense. It always puzzled me why the bulk of practice for the Texas race would take place in the heat of the day on Friday, when the race itself would be run in the cooler evening hours on Saturday. Of course, there was no mention of what the schedule would be for the night race at Texas this season.
IndyCar has also tried to standardize the Friday practice times for road/street courses to take place at 11:00 and 3:00 local time. They’ve also tweaked the schedule for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis to condense it into a two-day affair. Previously the race weekend began with practice on Thursday, practice and qualifying on Friday and the race on Saturday. Now it’s all crammed into two days. Selfishly that’s good for me, since we don’t go up until Friday anyway. That means we’ll get to see more on-track action live and in-person. I still wish that the opening practice for the Indianapolis 500 would start that Sunday instead of waiting until Monday, but I’m probably not going to win that battle.
But my favorite change for the upcoming season is one that I was not expecting at all. It involves the overtake or push-to-pass button. Being the purist that I am, I’m not a big fan of the push-to-pass feature. It seems just a little gimmicky to me. I don’t like the idea of extra horsepower in reserve. I tend to want to make all the horsepower available to the driver all the time. If the driver can’t manage the power and blows up the engine, that’s his or her fault. That’s just another element of racing in my book. But in this age of cost-containment, safeguards have been built in to save the drivers from themselves. It helps the owners out, but the fans and drivers are left wanting more.
But since it seems to be here to stay, I like the changes that they have made. Previously, a driver got a predetermined number of chances they could use the overtake button at their own discretion. For example, they might get ten pushes at fifteen seconds each, whether they needed the full fifteen seconds or not. Scott Goodyear always compared it to a debit card and once it was gone it was gone. I never thought that was a fair comparison, because when you use your debit card it’s not always for $100. Sometimes you may only need to make a $10 purchase. They don’t make you spend $100 each transaction.
With Monday’s announcement, the push-to-pass has been simplified to where a driver gets 150 seconds per race to use at his or her discretion. If they need to hold it down for fifteen seconds they can. If they only need it for three seconds, that’s all that is “charged to them” – not the full fifteen seconds when they only needed it for half that time.
To me, this is a much better system. I’m for anything that puts more control back in the hands of the driver. It also encourages the driver to save the time allotted for the more crucial parts at the end of a race. I don’t know who came up with or proposed this idea, but I like it.
I may be sounding like a broken record, but I’ve really liked most of the decisions coming out of the IndyCar offices lately. I have to think Jay Frye has his fingerprints on all of these changes announced this week. It sounds like his common sense approach and way of doing things. I still say that when we look back on this time fifteen years from now, we’ll realize what a Godsend Jay Frye has been for IndyCar. Who knows? By then, he may have earned the label as “the man who saved IndyCar”. That’s still to be determined.
It’s still to be determined if these changes are for the good. There may be some unintended consequences to some or all of them, but I can’t see any downside to any of them. And for someone who despises change to say that – they must be on the right track.