Monday, July 21, 2014

Red Flag Redux

Wow... Has it been almost 2 months since my last post??? I need to work on that... 

In my last post, I mentioned that I am against red flagging a race to improve the chances of a green-flag finish. I noted even then that my attitude might be headed for history's dustbin, but I've given the idea some thought. The impetus for my altered opinion was the first three quarters of this year's 500. They were all green. Which I thought was glorious (at least with today's equal equipment-in any of the first 80 500s, I guarantee that such a long, caution-free stretch would NOT have resulted in a record number of cars on the lead lap at the finish). I was disappointed, in fact, to see Charlie Kimball's car come to rest. Green flag racing is pure racing. Speed and strategy, untainted by slowdowns or distractions to the action. The fastest car to finish the distance wins. I realized that the red flag might actually be consistent with this philosophy. I would never suggest going to Green-White-Checker finishes: those belong on the Saturday Night short track, not in a professional environment with careers and million-dollar paychecks on the line. The key, I believe, is clear rules and consistent execution-something brought up by Ed Carpenter after his driver won at Toronto yesterday.

There has to be enough time left in the race to collect the field with the pace car and park it somewhere safe, refire the field, run another pace lap (giving anyone who has trouble getting re-started a fighting chance), restart the race, and have enough laps at actual racing speed to get back into the rhythm of the race. Say, 3-4 laps. At Indy, I would guess this window would fall between lap 188 and 193. Any sooner, and the incident could probably just be cleaned up under yellow. Any later, and there isn't time to organize the field.

If done properly and consistently, with well-conceived and executed rules, maybe red-flagging races to attempt to finish them under green isn't such a bad thing. Am I spot-on? Way off-base?

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