Return of the yellow scare

Posted by Iannucci | 6/24/2008 | 6 comments »
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Chris Estrada at Indy Racing Revolution has a nice article noting how today may be one of the most pivotal in the history of American open-wheel racing. In an undisclosed location with the windows boarded and the doors locked various representatives from several engine manufacturers are meeting with IRL officials for preliminary discussions about competing in the IndyCar series. Unconfirmed reports have Ford, GM, BMW, Volkswagen, Peugeot, Hyundai, Fiat and Suburu (OK, so I made a few of those up) in attendance, discussing future technical specs that would somehow level the playing field and allow for dependable competition against whoop-ass machines emblazoned with “Honda”.

Unfortunately the same post includes other news relating to the future of racing. With the sudden perception of problems relating to a yellow-flag finish it seems a message board controversy is no longer just a point of discussion among die-hard race fans.

In the wake of consecutive races ending under caution, the IndyCar Series could be on the verge of going NASCAR with its finishes.

League officials confirmed Saturday at Iowa Speedway that meetings are under way as a step toward ensuring that each event has a chance to end at speed under green.

The most likely scenario involves Barnhart, as the chief steward of events, having the latitude to stop the action following a late-race accident to give a green-flag finish a chance. But enough laps likely must remain to finish in regulation, a Barnhart goal.

(MORE from IndyStar)
Oh, for goodness sakes. Of all of the things that need to be sorted out for this newly acquimergified series this should not be one of them. We’ve had this same kind of racing ending ever so infrequently under yellow for however many years, but suddenly now that the N-Word has these contrived finishes the IRL has to up the ante for viewer excitement or it’s back to .1 ratings for IndyCars.

As some of you might recall My Name Is IRL had a bit of a send-up on this madness a few weeks ago, sarcastically defining rules for improving the odds of finishing under a green flag. (Re-read it, or at least re-read the inspired first comment from the infamous “mmack”.) The ever articulate Jeff Olson also discussed this as well, giving many un-sarcastic reasons why this is a thoroughly bad idea, not the least of which is that any contrived finish is begging for crashes. But let’s not let a few valid reasons get in the way of green flag.

Ironically in the days after I posted my piece I had people tell me “I liked your ‘go-zone’ idea” of green only laps at the end of the race, which tells me the masses are not the same as they ever were and are now demanding that something be changed. So, if you really want change as much as Danica really (REALLY) wants to win, then I’ll tell you what: I’ll give you an honest set of ideas and this time I’ll do my best to hold the sarcasm.

To be perfectly clear, I don’t think there’s anything that needs to be changed with the current treatment of yellow and green flag laps, but if we must do something for the sake of contrived excitement then your humble host offers up this proposal to be thrown against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Proposal 1 – Only count green flag laps. If you paid for 200 laps then friend, you get 200 green flag laps. Period. If we start discussing any changes for the final X laps then let me point out that any rule change good enough for the last few laps should be good enough for the entire race. Consequently yellow-flag laps do not count ever, and no that doesn’t make the race longer than the set number miles any more than parade laps before the green flag do. This way we have contrived excitement AND purity in the same solution.

Proposal 2 – Yellow flags are only for warm-up laps. If for any reason traffic must be slowed there will be no more parade laps. Now, whenever so much as a Dallara mirror falls on the track the red flag comes out and all competitors must proceed directly to their pit boxes, park the car, and “make fuel” the old-fashioned way by turning off the engine. When the track has been cleared there will be two yellow warm-up laps followed by the green flag. Additionally, final average speeds will all be records in the first season.

Proposal 3 – All vehicle maintenance must be conducted under a green flag lap. The best way to reduce accidents in the pits is to eliminate having 20+ drivers pitting at once. Pick your laps carefully and make your in and out laps matter every time. If there’s not green flag then there’s no touching of the car, no fueling, no nothing. Just sit there, let your tires cool off, have a drink, maybe take a potty break if needed.

Proposal 4 – Allow drivers to start their own cars. No touching the car during the red flag parking fiestas means the drivers need to be able to re-fire their cars. Which makes sense anyways because how many laps are we losing now because someone stalls on the track and needs a push or a tow? I understand there is a tradition here, but having a dude in the back of your car firing up the car doesn’t exactly smell like 21st Century technology.

Proposal 5 – No more fuel settings. Races decided on who gets the best fuel mileage are by no means illegitimate, but they are less entertaining. Races are contests of speed, not conservation, and there isn’t a single person I know who waits all week to see which driver can play a better game of chicken with the fuel setting. Henceforth there will be a rev-limiter on the engines that will be for pit speed and warm-up laps at 60 mph, and for everything else drivers have to save fuel by doing it with their feet just like the rest of us.

There you go. It’s not perfect, but it may be the best we can do. And if nothing else I’d ask everyone to personally contact Mr Barnhart to at least get Proposal 5 implemented so you don’t have to hear (read?) me complaining about fuel knobs anymore.


  1. pressdog // June 24, 2008 3:16 PM  

    Proposal 1 is also known as the Sprint Car Way which is exactly how it works on the dirt. Only green laps count.

  2. Anonymous // June 24, 2008 4:49 PM  

    Then again this is the series that also starts races under prolonged yellows, then radios/IMs/telegraphs/smoke signals Tony Kanaan to get the okay to go green.

  3. Jennifer Coomer // June 24, 2008 6:59 PM  

    "this newly acquimergified series" – Oh yes, my friend.

    I drive a Honda. And I know I have an edge on all other drivers heading up/down I-65.

    Proposal 2 seems a little anti-Sarah Fisher. You know…all the stopping…and STARTING the car. Not one of her best areas. And you know I love Sarah. Even if she did "endorse" Hillary. And then there is Proposal 4 which may be pro-Sarah Fisher. I’m not sure.

  4. Anonymous // June 25, 2008 6:39 AM  

    You can't count only Green laps, it would be impossible to measure fuel mileage, and the TV networks would not want that uncertainty, nor the fans. I want to know the damn race distance beforehand!

    The fuel mileage stuff really doesn't matter in this case, its more about being able to finish the race in your TV window. Red flagging would be a disaster. You know there will be some cars which will not start right away or not at all, and that's not fair. Onboard starters were attempted in Champ Car with the Panoz DP-01 but they could never get them to work.

  5. Anonymous // June 25, 2008 8:18 AM  

    they couldn't get in-car starters to work? I drive an 85 Dodge Ram and the starter works most of the time, seems like they could figure it out.

    I think maybe they should lose the in-car fuel trim knob. I like when the fastest car wins, not the eighth fastest.

  6. Anonymous // June 25, 2008 9:41 AM  

    Research also shows that about 13 percent of the IRL's races since 1996 have ended under caution.

    "That means 87 percent of the time we've got something that works," Barnhart said. "Having said that, if TV supports us, we'll look at doing something.

    Brain Barnhart is an idiot ! Well , it works 87% of time so lets see what we can change, where does he get that nonsense from George W. Bush ??

    IRL founder Tony George has a more straightforward approach to the problem.

    "Stop crashing," he said.

    would be nice except the ICS has drivers who have no business being in the series : Bernoldi, Viso, Duno, Moraes, Roth !