IndyCar drivers express displeasure over double-points races

Drivers continue to question IndyCar's decision to add double-points races in 2014.

© 2014, Michael L. Levitt

When IndyCar officials announced during the offseason that double-points races would be awarded to the three 500-mile races on the schedule, it was an attempt to balance the available points between ovals and non-ovals because the schedule is heavy on street and road courses and very light on ovals.

Two of the top drivers in the series, however, don’t believe there should be double-points events at all. And if there are any contests that pay twice the amount of points, it should be limited to the Indianapolis 500.

The three double-points races on the schedule are the Indy 500, the Pocono IndyCar 500 and the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. All three of those races are on superspeedways – tracks over 2-miles in length.

“I personally think Indianapolis should be the only double-points race,” said this year’s Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. “It’s the most important race we have. We are there for a month. Why wouldn’t it be the only double-points race?”

Hunter-Reay’s Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe disagrees.

“It hasn’t been double points for the last 97 years,” Hinchcliffe said. “If there is going to be a double-points race I would vote Indy but I don’t think there should be any double-points races. Let’s say you have a good superspeedway car, you have a chance at 300 points instead of 150 points.  If you have a good short track car, good Mid-Ohio car… it’s not just that there’s double-points races, it’s they’re all on the same type of racetracks. I think that unfairly sways who has the best chance at getting those points. 

“It’s the same for doubleheaders, they’re all street courses. If you have a better street course car, you have a better chance at scoring double points than if you have a really good Mid-Ohio car. 

“For the sake of consistency, the championship, equality, I just think they’re not very fair.”

Although NASCAR has changed the way it has awarded the Sprint Cup championship numerous times since the implementation of “The Chase” in 2004, IndyCar has generally had the most compelling and competitive fight for the title with the championship often determined in the last turn on the last lap of the last race of the year.

That could happen this year in the season finale on August 30 but the double points may have been an unnecessary step.

“IndyCar has always been one of the true drivers’ championships because it covers all disciplines of racing other than let’s say dirt,” Hunter-Reay said. “We don’t do that. But it’s the short oval, the superspeedway, the road courses, street circuits. 

“That’s the one thing that sets it apart.

“You tip that to one side or the other when you start rewarding double points on certain types of racetracks. It gives emphasis on that type of racing. Leave the schedule as it is, let’s add some races, but do away with the double points.”

The real issue with IndyCar’s schedule is its inability to schedule more races on oval tracks. Back in 2008 there was a nice balance of ovals, street and road courses. But after former IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard ended a relationship with the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) after the 2010 season, most of the good ovals fell off the schedule.

“From a championship point of view, I’d rather do away with the double points and add three more ovals,” Hinchcliffe said.

The double-points format may actually have more liability that reward.

“It’s the payout that the race winner gets and the gaps that go all the way back,” Hunter-Reay said. “A few years ago at the end of the field you would get some points back there and it would not penalize you as much for a DNF (did not finish). Now, you get one point in the back so it has changed that and the gaps in the top 10 have tightened up a lot.

“At Fontana, there is a big swing at stake so if one driver has a good day and another a bad day there can be a lot of points that change there.”

Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves enters Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio with a 13-point lead over teammate Will Power. Hunter-Reay is third, 69 points out of the lead.

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