IndyCar Raceday Warm Up and the Conversation about Standing Starts

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The Honda Indy Toronto warm up session for the Verizon IndyCar Series this morning went relatively smooth for the field. There were two short-lived red flags, one for Team Penske driver, Simon Pagenaud after he made contact with the tire barrier in Turn 8. He went into the barrier nose-first but the car was not carrying any extreme speed at the time so he did not sustain any damage. The Holmatro safety team attended to him, restarting the No. 22 PPG Chevy and Pagenaud returned to pit lane until the red flag was lifted. He still ran the No. 22 as second quickest overall in weekend practices, with fellow French driver and two-time Toronto winner, Sebastien Bourdais out-running him by just .2675 of a second, to claim fastest practice lap overall. Bourdais also ran fastest on Sunday morning, but it did not outdo his time from Saturday’s Practice 3 session.  

04CJ9668AAbout ten minutes later, Conor Daly, driving for Dale Coyne Racing and starting a career-best P7 in today’s race, looked to lose control of the wheel when he hit the curbing in Turn 5 the wrong way. The right side of his car made impact with the outside wall and came to a stop with mostly front right wing damage. The rookie of the year contender was able to exit his vehicle without assistance. He was transported back to pit lane and the Holmatro Safety Team rolled the car into the runoff and behind a wall to allow the field to finish the last 3 minutes of morning warm up. Dale Coyne Racing tweeted out shortly after that it was only a slight mistake and they would definitely be race ready. 

There were a few other cars utilizing the run-offs, Mikhail Aleshin and Scott Dixon to name a couple. Dixon had an engine stall in pit lane as well. It occurred at the very start of the session. The field ran one install lap, returned to pit lane and then headed back out. It was on that return to the track that Dixon stalled a couple pit boxes down from his own. Thankfully everyone was cognizant of the situation and all cars wp-1468773732638.jpgbehind him were able to move to the right and avoid contact with directional assistance from Spencer Pigot’s No. 20 crew. Once those cars had cleared, the No. 9 crew ran out, rolled him back to the box, restarted today’s polesitter, and sent him on his way.

Hopefully all of these spin-outs and run-offs will be out of the driver’s systems now and we can have a smooth race. No, I am not delusional. I am well aware that we will likely have multiple yellows during this race… and having one in the first lap wouldn’t surprise me in the least. The hope however, is that we run the majority of the 85 laps under green. 

I talked to Conor Daly this morning and he had a great solution for the “will we be able to start side-by-side?” question… a standing start. He and I both felt that the series gave up on standing starts in IndyCar far too soon. This is open-wheel racing, we have the most diverse and competitive series on the planet, and arguably the best drivers in racing. Given those points, we should be able to execute a standing start with precision. Sure, it would take some practice, but it feels like that’s what we’ve been missing lately when we implement new ideas. Sometimes IndyCar jumps the gun and does things prematurely… aero kits, standing starts, new track announcements. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself on the last one.

Seriously though, I always thought we should have done real-time testing of aerokits at open tests during the 2015 season and implemented them in 2016; the standing starts are just a matter of setting aside time to practice on a race weekend, outside of lap practice, and not just individually, but as a field. The latter is particularly important so we could work out the bugs and not have a repeat incident like that of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Determining the correct spacing between cars based on the track/frontstretch, the distance between rows, and of course allowing room for error. 

I’d like to see standing starts at street circuits, if nothing else, in the Verizon IndyCar Series. If it does come back into being, it certainly won’t be this afternoon. So I’ll end this by sharing what I said to Conor as we finished our conversation: “You and the guys take it easy, get through 10 & 11 smooth and side-by-side, and when you see that green flag, give ‘em hell!”

Verizon IndyCar Series track times for the Honda Indy Toronto:

Friday, July 15:
Practice #1 – 10:00 – 10:45 a.m. ET
Practice #2 – 2:30 – 3:15 p.m. ET

Saturday, July 16:
Practice #3 – 9:45 – 10:30 a.m. ET
Quals – 1:30 – 2:45 p.m. ET

Sunday, July 17:
Warm Up – 10:30 – 11:00 a.m. ET
Honda Indy Toronto Race – 2:30 – 5:30 p.m. E.T.

The Honda Indy Toronto qualifying will be broadcast live on NBCSN and the race will be broadcast live on CNBC. All practice sessions will be livestreamed via IndyCar. All links to livestream, plus information on radio coverage is available here.

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