The last few days have been unkind to the Inbox, what with all the emails from people saying they are thisclose to leaving the series for good. Spitting nails in so many words, outraged at the sheer dullness of the recent racing. Lack of passing will do that.
Fortunately the IRL has decided to do something about this (finally!) by adjusting the racing specs in the hopes that side-by-side racing might return for the upcoming race at Kentucky Speedway. It's gotten so bad even Tony Kanaan said "Richmond was pathetic. If I was a fan, I would have left by lap 30."
Meanwhile gearheads continue to speculate if this sudden parade on every track is caused by the new exhaust configuration or a new tire compound or solar flashes or the death of Paul Newman or EJ Viso's #13. Whatever it is, it's all hypothetical at this point, as drivers can't pass under the green flag and street sweepers spend so much time cleaning marbles during the yellows that you could read a Tolstoy novel. (Seriously, I think I've seen more airtime for Street Sweepers than Lindy Thackston this year, and that ain't right.)
But there is one thing that can be done to improve racing and it has nothing to do with aero or grip or downforce. As pressdog says, "rip the knob off".
Longtime readers of My Name Is IRL know that your humble host has a near jihad-level of animosity for the multiple "fuel mappings" (settings) drivers can use during races. "The knob", as it is referred to, auto-magically allows drivers to conserve fuel by "leaning out" (limiting) amount of ethanol fed to the engine. Less fuel means less power means less speed.
This sounds like a fabulous tool (*drink*) drivers can use to give them an option with their race strategy, one that actually led to Danica Patrick's lone win. Drivers concede to drive a slower car in the hope they can make up the time from not having to make an extra green-flag pit stop. Unfortunately what happens more often than not - and with even greater frequency this year given the single grooviness of the racing - is that when they realize that passing is impossible EVERY driver shifts into fuel conservation mode. Case in point, at Richmond last weekend when our buddy pressdog noted on the Timing & Scoring that the IndyCars were driving 148 mph, despite running practice times in the upper 160s!
Everyone is now going 148 mph. Seriously. It says so on my timing and scoring. I wish I was making it up. That's about 10 mph slower than the best times of the night so far. 148. I think my 2001 Flamin' Ford Focus could go 148. Davey Hamilton eyes the Two Seater and considers getting into this race.And therein lies the problem with "the knob": fans don't fork over their good money just to see an exhibition of fuel conservation. One of the hallmarks of the IndyCar series is that it features the fastest laps on Earth (say, someone should trademark that), but that goes out the window when all of the cars intentionally slow down. It's time to solve the problem by providing a one setting for green flag racing (90-something percent) and another for yellow flag conditions and that's it. Forget all this push-to-pass nonsense by utilizing the existing "overtake" button to boost it to 100% and make drivers conserve fuel the old-fashioned way - with their right foot on the throttle.