My IndyCar Wishes For 2018

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I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I think I’m so perfect that I need no improvement. I just don’t wait until January rolls around to make any needed adjustments in my life. I tend to make the needed tweaks throughout the year as the needs first surface. Otherwise, by the time January rolls around – I will have forgotten them.

But just because I made no resolutions that went into effect last Monday, does not mean that I have no wishes for the New Year. My wishes tend to be attainable and realistic. Therefore, I don’t wish for world peace or to win the lottery. Instead, they are more likely to be shallow and superficial – much like myself. Aside from wishing the Vols and Titans go undefeated next fall (ok, maybe that’s not realistic – but can the Titans at least beat the Patriots on Saturday night?); I also have some wishes for the upcoming IndyCar season, which starts in just a little over two months. Some will happen, some happened over the holidays since I last posted and some will not happen at all – but hey, I can wish can’t I?

Do away with all of the extra-points for Indianapolis 500 qualifications: This is one that took place over the Christmas break. For the past few years, it used to be that winning the pole for the Indianapolis 500 counted almost as much as winning a hard-fought race at Texas or Toronto. Championship points were also handed out like candy for even qualifying on the last row. Back when qualifying was much more stressful than it is now – winning the Indianapolis 500 pole paid only one point – just like it did for qualifying fastest at Long Beach.

Personally, I’m in favor of making qualifying count the same for all races – but they don’t base an entire weekend around qualifying at any other races, so I can see the logic of making Indianapolis 500 qualifying a little more special.

Jay Frye and company have simplified the qualifying point structure greatly. Only the Fast Nine can earn qualifying points. The pole winner is awarded nine points, while the second fastest qualifier earns eight. It follows that system until the ninth fastest qualifier earns one point while the tenth-place qualifier and those further back get none. I think that’s fair. If you qualify on the fourth row of the Indianapolis 500, should you really be entitled to extra points?

Do away with double-points completely: This won’t happen this season, but it should. A few years ago, the Triple Crown was brought back as an homage to the Marlboro Triple Crown of the seventies. The three races that made up the Triple Crown of the seventies were Indianapolis, Pocono and the now-defunct Ontario Motor Speedway (which was an IMS clone). The Fuzzy’s Triple Crown of 2013 consisted of Indianapolis, Pocono and the season-finale at Fontana. It didn’t last more than a year or two. Instead, IndyCar had the bright idea to make those three races pay double-points. When Sonoma became the season finale in 2015, the double-points races were the Indianapolis 500 and Sonoma.

There are varying opinions on this. A minority of fans like it the way it is. Most do not think Sonoma is a track worthy of double-points. They think that double-points awarded there just because it is the season finale reeks of gimmickry; but they still like awarding double-points for the Indianapolis 500 because it is such a big race.

My opinion? Double-points should be done away with completely. The importance of the Indianapolis 500 stands alone. It doesn’t need double-points to prop it up. All seventeen races are important pieces of the championship.

The NFL just completed their sixteen-game schedule. What if winning the last game of the season counted as two wins? Everything would be skewed artificially. Some might argue that it would prevent some teams from resting their players for the playoffs, but it would throw everything in a mess. Why? Because losing that last game would also count as two losses. You would then have teams possibly resting for the fifteenth game, so they could get two wins in that last game. As preposterous as that sounds – that’s what double-points in certain races have done for IndyCar.

Make the Indianapolis 500 count just the same as Iowa and Mid-Ohio. It needs nothing to make it stand out. It already does.

Simplify Indianapolis 500 Qualifying: Being the traditionalist that I am, I would prefer that qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 be restored to four days over two weekends. However, I am not naïve enough to think that will ever happen again in the near future. But I am not convinced that this current format is working.

Even though they have been under the current format since 2014, I still have to remind myself that Pole Day is now on Sunday. I consider myself to be a die-hard fan and I believe I have at least average intelligence. But I still find the current qualifying format very difficult to understand and even harder to explain. The one thing I do understand is that every driver now qualifies at least twice – at least once on Saturday and at least once on Sunday (I think). Basically, Saturday now sets the Fast Nine and locks in the thirty-three car starting grid. The last few years have provided only thirty-three entries, so there is really not a lot of drama so far as that goes.

Having to re-qualify on Sunday is the rub. There is no drama in withdrawing a car and possibly missing the race. But it mandates that all cars will qualify again on Sunday, thereby exposing a car for crash damage.

I say qualify all the cars on Saturday on speed. Set the Fast Nine and run the Fast Nine at the end of the day on Saturday. Save Sunday for a rain date or the final practice day. That way, those of us that travel will still get to see cars running on Sunday. But if Saturday is a full day of setting the entire grid – you may end up with decent crowds for that one day. And it would be a heck of a lot easier for fans to understand and easier on the teams.

Maintain stability in Race Control: As I said last month, the loss of Brian Barnhart as Race Director is bigger than most realize. Yes he was despised when he was making all of the calls himself, but when he was leading a committee to enforce rules – he thrived in the role. As of this past Friday, IndyCar has announced that IMSA’s Kyle Novak will get the job. I’ll admit, I know absolutely nothing about Novak.

However, whoever was to get the job should have an understanding that they are not the star of the show. No one buys a ticket to see Race Control flex their muscle. They need to exercise their power when necessary, but an over-officiated race does no favors for anyone.

I had heard that Beaux Barfield may have been a candidate to return. That didn’t thrill me, only because I always thought he considered himself somewhat of a celebrity when he was Chief Steward a few years ago. He seemed to almost seek out the spotlight, which is not a good trait for a Chief Steward. No one in the role of Race Director needs to enjoy any type of celebrity status, and I hope that Kyle Novak understands that.

The new common body kit races like it looks: The biggest news heading into the 2018 season is the new common body kit. Gone are the aero kits specific to the engine manufacturers, but also the original DW12 that was lacking in the looks department. This new car looks sleek and initial testing reviews sound promising. But we won’t really know until the first race at St. Petersburg.

A good race at Phoenix: Since the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to Phoenix, the crowds have been thin. That could be partly because the racing has been boring. People that are a lot smarter than I am insist that the new body kit should dramatically improve the racing at Phoenix. Let’s hope so. Attendance will continue to dwindle with many more parades like we’ve seen at Phoenix the last couple of years. Track-owner ISC does not have much of a history of showing patience when races are not well-attended.

A safe season for all: Without question, this is my most important wish for 2018. I would gladly give up any of the other wishes listed if we can have a safe season for drivers, crew-members and fans.

These are just some of the things I wish for in the 2018 IndyCar season. I’ll do my best to eat better, lose weight, save money, treat people nicer and all of those other mundane things that everyone promises in late December and breaks before Groundhog Day. But my IndyCar wishes for 2018 are things we should all hope for.

George Phillips

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9 Responses to “My IndyCar Wishes For 2018”

  1. One I’d add is a third engine manufacturer comes on board. This would open up a lot of opportunities, increase exposure, etc. Supposedly it’s been close to happening a few times, let’s hope it gets across the goal line in 2018.

  2. Danica Patrick is dating Aaron Rodgers. So get Danica in the 500 and you have a twofer: Greater attendence and more media exposure. Anybody reading Racer.com while George has been away on a beach somewhere knows that Jay Frye has made some very good and very important changes in the last few weeks. He has been one helluva good hire.

  3. Where does the return of my blog fit on this list??

  4. billytheskink Says:

    I’m wishing for more unexpected driver announcements to put the Juncos car on the grid for the full season.

  5. Qualifying points is OK if the qualifying order is random but with the order being selected by the standings, it just sounds like another freebie for Penske at the expense of the little guys.

  6. Here’s a little more information on Kyle Novak and how he called races last year in IMSA – http://nasportscar.com/reviewing-kyle-novaks-year-as-ctsc-race-director/

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