As reported in the media, many of the Izod Indycar Series drivers are opposed to the use of double-file restarts in the Indy 500. This would be a mistake.
Skepticism about the double-file restart centers on its interfering with the purity of sport of racing or being a hokey gimmick better suited to stock cars and Saturday night short-track racing. Concerns about safety have also been aired, with many drivers concerned that double-file restarts will result in shattered cars, delayed races, or worse.
Safety concerns, while not without merit, should not be the biggest issue. In three of four races this year, the field was able to execute repeated double-file restarts without incident (in the fourth, they don’t appear to have seriously attempted to go side-by-side). I should think that, on a large oval like Indianapolis with more space and fewer turns, lining up to come out of turn 4 two abreast wouldn’t be a problem. Questions about the sport’s purity come into play because, in the current system, the leader’s hard-won advantage is maintained during caution periods when the cars he has lapped remain between him and his closest competitors. Sending lapped cars behind all of the leaders, as in a double-file restart, nullifies that advantage. Which is true. However, when lined up for a double-file restart, the field is in the correct running order: The leader is 1st on the track, 2nd place is alongside him or her, 3rd place slots in immediately behind the leader, and so on. No positions have been altered or moved. According to the scoreboard, no change has been made and results are the same.
Double-file restarts are absolutely a NASCAR-influenced gimmick. A NASCAR-influenced gimmick that has proven successful at its goal: Increase interest by giving fans more exciting racing moments. With barely measurable TV ratings, poor attendance, and general disinterest or lack of knowledge, the Izod Indycar Series could stand to use some gimmicks, especially those that don’t impact safety or the purity of the sport. Personally, I find the overtake button to be more of a gimmick than the restart procedure, and I’ve heard little (if any) criticism of it.
On the other hand, I’m not a race car driver and I might have something dead wrong in my reasoning. If so, I’d like to hear it.