Newly appointed IndyCar chief steward Beaux Barfield has wasted no time making his mark on the upcoming IndyCar season, announcing a number of rule tweaks, changes and introducing innovations to improve the show aimed at enticing more fans to attend races.
Perhaps the most radical is a new qualifying format set to make its debut at the Iowa Corn 250 at Iowa Speedway. The practice sessions will effectively set the best qualifying chances for each driver, with a series of three mini-heat races to take place, the result of which will set the grid for the main race.
Cars finishing the practice session in the Top 10 will then compete against each other in a 30-lap sprint with no pit-stops, with the race results forming the first ten starting grid positions. Cars finishing the practice session in odd-numbered positions from 11th downward will take part in their own 30-lap race which will determine the odd-numbered grid positions 11, 13, 15 (and so on) while the even-numbered positions will follow suit.
Meanwhile, the ever-unpopular double-file restarts will be retained for all races except for Texas, Fontana and the Indy 500 – all high-speed ovals. During the 2011 season, it was generally only at ovals that the double-file restarts were ever panned by drivers and teams.
Perhaps of most concern to IndyCar purists is rumours that standing starts could be introduced, as was hinted at recently by Barfield, commenting to the official IndyCar website.
“I’ve spent the past five weeks writing rules and I have to write a lot more rules for standing starts,” Barfield noted. Such a move would likely prove unpopular as rolling starts have been the norm for American open-wheel racing for decades, with the exception of the latter days of Champ Car.