Happy New Year, everyone. It’s finally 2018. We are closer to the start of the new racing season. Many Indycar drivers will be testing the new aerokits beginning this month and some drivers get in their first taste of competition at the Rolex 24 at the end of the month.
I have some exciting ideas for this blog for this year. Some are based on reader suggestions, and some come from the responses to types of articles I did last year. Indycar was very busy just before the holidays with news.
Indycar made two announcements about oval qualifying just before Christmas. One involved qualifying points at The Indianapolis 500, and the other concerned qualifying procedures on ovals. The details and my thoughts on these follow.
Indy 500 qualifying will not be the point-a- palooza it has been the past few years. In 2018, the Fast nine are the only drivers receiving points. The pole winner gets 9 points and the other eight get points in descending order with ninth place receiving 1 point. No points are given for qualifying 10th or lower. I have read many arguments in favor of the new format as well as some opposed to it.
My feeling is there were way too many points given for qualifying so I am happy about the change. Did Indycar go too far the other direction? I’m not sure. Drivers have to make two runs to make the race. There should be a bit of a reward for that extra effort. Perhaps a larger, separate qualifying purse would help. If there are more than 33 entries, which is a greater possibility this year than there has been lately, a new format altogether may be needed. I would like see cars limited to no more than three attempts on Saturday.
The qualifying change on ovals I do not like at all. On ovals other than Indianapolis, qualifying order will be determined by entrant points. This means by Iowa we will likely have the order at every oval pretty much set. The idea is to give the leaders the best chance to start the race at the front. Why? If the points leaders are slow in practices, why should they get an advantageous qualifying slot that weekend? Having all the points leaders, assuming they are the fastest cars, begin at the front every race could make for some boring races.
A better way would be to use the final practice times for each event as the qualifying order with the fastest qualifying last. In discussions I have had with other fans, there has been talk of having the points leaders go first. I like that idea as well. If they are the fastest cars, qualifying order shouldn’t matter since they will all be going out in a short time fame of one another. I see nothing wrong with having the best drivers race to the front. Eliminating randomness, as the league seems determined to do, could turn Indycar into Formula 1.
Carlos Munoz will return for the 500 driving for his old team, Andretti Autosport. Munoz has finished 2nd twice at Indy and always runs very well there. Adding Munoz gives Andretti six cars for the race.
Indycar announced the first on track test of the aeroscreen prototype will be February 9-10 at the Phoenix open test. The schedule is subject to change.
Carlin Racing announced Charlie Kimball will drive car number 23 and Max Chilton will be in the 59 car. Those numbers haven’t been seen on an Indycar since 2011, when E. J. Viso drove number 59 and Paul Tracy attempted to qualify the 23 car at Indy.
Indycar announced last Thursday that only rookies would get extra tires for the first practice on road and street courses. Last year teams outside the top 10 in points also get an extra set. I like this idea. Nearly half the field received the extra set. The teams in the top 10 usually sat out the first half of practice. Now just the rookies will be on track during the first half of the session. That is something else that needs to be tweaked. Shortening the practices would help. Portland is the only new track on the schedule. Most teams should have enough data for each venue that a shorter practice would be fine. The only teams shorter practices this could hurt next year are Carlin and Harding. They are new full time teams and do not have rookie drivers. Jay Frye indicated the league is looking at incentives to get more cars out for practice sessions.
Teams will get an extra set of tires at Phoenix, Detroit, Texas, Iowa, and Toronto in an effort to make tire distribution more consistent. These tracks were picked on the basis of tire wear. on track.
I have started listening to a couple of new podcasts and want to make sure everyone knows about them. Both are great additions to the Indycar podcast universe. I would start one myself, but I have a voice for the print media. Check them out when you have a chance.
The newest, Pit Lane Parley, hosted by Mike Joachim and Jess Baker, offers insight and commentary on Indycar news. Their podcasts are on the Podbean app.
Fastcarsfastgirls, also available on Podbean as well as other sources, features Abby and Molly with a look at happenings in the racing world. They usually include a bit of history and always have a feature on women in racing.
Enjoy the first week of the new year. Racing is getting closer.