INDIANAPOLIS – Leading drivers fear that Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 will be plunged into chaos by controversial new rules which are expected to increase the risk of crashes during the iconic event.
Defending champion Dario Franchitti told Yahoo! Sports he believes this year’s 100th anniversary race is set to become a “lottery” because of regulations which force racers to line up in side-by-side formation every time there is a restart.
In previous years, restarts have been in single-file and it is thought that the double-file format will make accidents more likely due to the track’s marbling effect, which means that after several laps have passed shreds of tire muck up part of the track leaving only one ideal racing line.
“We will make the best of it but it would be a crying shame if the centennial event is undermined by a bunch of things that are beyond the drivers’ control,” said Franchitti, who will start in ninth for the Target Chip Ganassi team.
“You want the best race you can and a deserving winner. I hope it doesn’t overshadow the event, whereby we are talking about double-file restart crap when we should be talking about who is going to win and who is the best on the day. Because you take those marbles at even 100 mph and you are going in the fence.”
Indy officials have promised that the track’s surface will be swept whenever possible to cut down on the marbling effect which can be so treacherous. When the track marbles, it drastically reduces the amount of grip the drivers are able to get, reducing the level of control they have over their machines.
Speeds coming down the straightaway on restarts can reach over 200 mph, and if the cars on the inside line have a traction advantage, chaos could ensue.
IndyCar points leader Will Power insisted that accidents could occur directly because of the ruling, instigated in a bid by series chiefs to add excitement during restarts.
“It is very surprising that they have decided to do this,” said Power. “It won’t be a shock if you see someone flying into the crowd and people could get injured badly. The racing line is so narrow and that makes it really tricky. The people on the outside are going to be at a huge disadvantage and you could get people going into the bloody wall.”
The move had caused some friction between drivers and race officials, with Danica Patrick admitting the decision had become a major talking point in the paddock.
“A lot of folks think that it is not the greatest idea,” said Patrick. “A lot of people will be anxious and that might result in an accident. It is going to be a race of smarts, but there is also going to be an element of luck involved.”
However, Brian Barnhart, IndyCar’s president of competition and racing operations, was adamant on Friday that the regulations would remain in place and that drivers would have to find their own way to deal with the format.
Barnhart claimed that he anticipates restart speeds going into Turn 1 to be 185 mph, which he insisted should be “sustainable” and “safe.”
- Dario Franchitti