2011 IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach

I’m not going to go through my usual commentary on this weekend’s IndyCar race (that’s right, I still refuse to use INDYCAR) because it has been commented on in a lot more eloquent fashion than I could have by some of the IndyCar bloggers:

Not INDYCAR’s Finest Day at More Front Wing by Paul Dalbey – I usually find myself agreeing with MFW’s Stephanie Wallcraft more often than I do Paul, but I’m agreeing with him here on a couple of points.  In this post, Paul hammers on IndyCar over double-file restarts and consistency in officiating.  I don’t know how anyone could have watched this weekend’s race and not come away with an opinion on it’s restarts or the official’s inconsistency.

If INDYCAR is serious about making double-file restarts work, something is going to have to change.  Either every driver is going to have to be put on probation for screwing up starts so badly, or INDYCAR is going to have to tinker at every track to make sure two-wide starts can be accommodated.  In the case of Long Beach, the start of an IICS race has never looked as terrible as it did today — it was simply an embarrassment.

If I’m a fan of the IZOD IndyCar Series, particularly if I’m a casual fan who is tuning for one of my first races, I shouldn’t need to have it explained why one incident is handled one way when a seemingly identical incident is handled completely differently.  If INDYCAR is going to have a rule book and dictate penalties, it needs to abide by the KISS principle: keep it stupid simple.  I’m at minimum an extremely passionate fan, and if I don’t have a clue why something is happening, there absolutely no way that a marginally interested spectator is going to understand it.  I shouldn’t have to be a driver, or a team owner, or a race strategist, or a lucky member of the credentialed media who gets to attend the drivers’ meetings to understand what rules are in effect at what times.

WHAT WE LEARNED: The PT Barnhart Circus Music Edition at Pop Off Valve by Tony Johns – Tony also hammers IndyCar over the starts and restarts at Long Beach.  He also points out that IndyCar President of Race Operations Brian Barnhart is losing credibility outside of the IndyCar paddock (although there are some, if not many, that would say he isn’t losing it – he has already lost it).

That Race Control turned a blind eye to it is baffling. It is no secret that the drivers intensely dislike the double-file starts/restarts (indeed, more than one driver directly blamed double-file restarts for on-track incidents at Long Beach despite the fact that, as noted earlier, there wasn’t one all day). But it appears that there wasn’t even lip service paid to enforcing the new rule at all. No yellows were thrown to call off restarts even though they were some of the most haphazard restarts in recent memory.

The takeaway from this weekend is that these continual restart issues make INDYCAR drivers look bad – either far more impatient or, worse, far less skilled than they should be. And that is not good for a sport looking for legitimacy.

The most important sentence in Tony’s commentary is “And that is not good for a sport looking for legitimacy.”  I’m going to mix Paul’s and Tony’s commentary here and say that the lack of credibility in race control and the inconsistency in officiating are a dangerous combination for a series that is attempting to rebound and grow after a recent history of division and acrimony.

The aborted start  and the second start of the Indy Lights race deserve to be mentioned as well.  The way it was handled reflects on a reason why there are problems with the starts and restarts in IndyCar.  The first attempt at the Lights start was waved off because it was simply ugly.  The second attempt didn’t look much better but the officials threw the green flag on it anyway instead of penalizing drivers for not following start procedures.  The officials are teaching the drivers in the ladder series that there are no ramifications, that there are no penalties, for not following rules and procedures.

It is also worth mentioning Robin Miller’s “Letter from Long Beach” at Speed. Miller puts how many people feel about the Long Beach start into a single sentence: “The strung out start of the race was a JOKE, a RIPOFF for the paying customers and TV audience.” In closing, I’ll leave you with a line from Miller’s article that I didn’t want to see (and I hope we see IndyCar journalists and bloggers following up on this):

Finally, the owners are bitching about buying optional bodywork kits for $75,000 so don’t be surprised if we have all Dallaras in 2012 with three different engines.

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