Monday, July 15, 2013

I Don't Like Standing Starts. And Other Stuff.

The first thing to say about this past weekend's Toronto doubleheader was that Brian Barnhart was back as race director while Beaux Barfield was unavailable. My first question is, why??? I spent much of 2011 railing on Barnhart and his vague, inconsistent, nonsensical, and just plain crazy calls. They, in my opinion, did damage to the sport and held it back. This weekend had it all: Blocks that weren't called, blocks that were called, blocks that weren't called but then were called but wait I guess they're not called, leaders jumping restarts, 'double file' restarts that weren't, and so on. I'm not going to say that Barfield is perfect or that I agree with every single call (or non-call) he's made, but he's far better than Barnhart.

One big news item from this weekend was the implementation of standing starts, at least for one of the races. That didn't go so well... Actually, it went exactly according to the protocol published several days before the race. It was just a letdown that the big, hyped event didn't happen for a technical reason (Newgarden's car). In one of the few cases when changing rules mid-stream made sense, Indycar elected to try again for a standing start on Sunday, which went off without trouble. Well, except for Ed Carpenter and James Hinchcliffe. But that brings me to my point.

Are standing starts good for Indycar? I say "no." And I'm not just trying to be contrary. Part of my Grand Philosophy, my Manifesto, for Indycar is that it needs to distance itself from that other big open-wheel racing series. Yes, yes, yes, we racing nerds can lecture at length about how different Formula 1 and Indycar are; how the cars are different and the teams are different and the races are different-but none of that means a thing when it comes to the general public. All they see are funny-looking cars. To them, a current Formula 1 car is indistinguishable from a DW12, which is indistinguishable from a 1986 March, which is indistinguishable from a 1974 McLaren. Indycar needs to carve out its own brand and identity, so that no one ever uses the phrase "those F1s" while referring to Indy cars again. (And that person was a car guy!) This is the biggest reason I was Delta Wing Superfan #1, and why I'm a fan of the current cars and their rear wheel fairings and guards, and of the current Super Speedway rear wing package. Anyway, Formula 1 does standing starts. It's one of the hallmarks of that kind of racing. I don't believe Indycar should use them just because F1 does. Instead, let's make the rolling start an Indycar hallmark. In fact, didn't they used to refer to the start of the Indianapolis 500 as "The Worlds Fastest Flying Start"? Isn't that one of the most dramatic moments of the year? (At least since Brian Barnhart hasn't been in charge...) I don't believe a rolling start on a street course, road course, oval, or anywhere, is at all lacking in drama or excitement. In fact, I'd suggest that fans watching near the start/finish line are treated to a more exciting moment in a rolling start-the cars are moving faster, accelerating faster, and the entrance to the first turn will be that much more exciting.

In other news, the promotional shirts from my Kickstarter will be in production soon. Here's a sneak preview of what's coming:

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