IndyCar officials working on restarts

BY foxsports • May 27, 2011

Brian Barnhart is confident IndyCar drivers will safely execute the new double-file restarts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Drivers aren't so sure.

Barnhart, IndyCar's president of competition and racing operations, said Thursday it's likely the restarts will begin about 900 feet from the first turn so drivers can go fast enough to eliminate congestion, yet slow enough that they won't crash on the tiny rubber bits - known as marbles - in the corners.

But drivers, who suggested that starting point, remain fearful of crashes during the restarts, which were instituted this season and have never been used at the Indy 500.

From defending champ Dario Franchitti to drivers back in the pack, such as Tomas Scheckter, there has been one unanimous voice: Crashes will happen.

''The marbles are what make the double-file so tough - unless they clean them up very, very well after every single restart in turns 1, 2 and 4,'' Franchitti said.

That's the plan.

Race officials have tried to alleviate concerns by adding two sweepers at each end of the track. Before the race restarts, one set of sweepers will drive through the first two turns at the north end of the track, while the other two will clean up the two turns at the south end. The intent of staggering the sweepers side-by-side is to create a clean track.

Barnhart, who says the drivers' concerns are legitimate, is still considering exactly where the restart acceleration point should be, though he is leaning toward the drivers' preferred 900-foot mark. The cars then would enter the first turn going about 183 mph, or 225 feet per second.

''That gives you about 3 1/2 seconds to pass someone before turn one,'' Barnhart said.

If the race turns into a demolition derby, Barnhart can make changes during the race, just like he did at Long Beach. All it would take is a radio call to the teams and drivers.

But he believes the drivers will make this a safe race.

''Cautions breed cautions; they always have,'' Barnhart said. ''That's because they're viewed as opportunities to the most competitive athletes in the world, and it doesn't matter if it's single file or double file. Race drivers are risky by nature, and if they think they can do it will. If they can't, they won't have a chance to win the Indy 500.''

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TRUMPED: The pace-car change could make Sunday's race feel like old times to Indy fans.

Four-time winner A.J. Foyt will lead the 33-car field around the 2.5-mile oval Sunday. Just behind him, in the two-seater, will be 1969 race winner Mario Andretti.

''It's absolutely great,'' said Mike Kelly, executive vice president of marketing for Izod's parent company, Phillips-Van Heusen. ''Mario reminded me that A.J. will still be in front of him.''

The Foyt-Andretti rivalry was one of the greatest in IndyCar history.

What could be their last meeting actually on the track almost didn't happen. Donald Trump originally was selected to drive the pace car but withdrew earlier this month.

Andretti will be joined in the two-seater by a military person as part of an Izod promotion.

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IRONMEN: Brazil's Vitor Meira and Tony Kanaan will participate in the Ironman World Championship on Oct. 8 in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Meira, who has been competing in triathlons since 2001, said the events help make him a better driver.

''For most of us, it's about the competition with yourself,'' Meira said.

Both drivers will try to complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run.

Kanaan is a known fitness buff.

Although neither expects to compete with the leaders, they're looking forward to the challenge.

''If you think IndyCar driving, you want to do the Indy 500,'' Kanaan said. ''If you want to do triathlon, you do Hawaii.''

The event falls between the Oct. 2 race at Kentucky and the season finale in Las Vegas on Oct. 16.

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BETTER VIEW: James Hinchcliffe will have a better seat for this year's 500 than he did last year.

He might not get a better view.

The Canadian rookie spent last Memorial Day weekend working in the broadcast booth for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's radio network. This year, he will start 13th, the second-fastest rookie qualifier in the field at 225.572.

''I was on the 9th floor of the Pagoda last year, and I thought that other than being in the race, that was the best seat in the house,'' he said. ''But I'll certainly like the perspective I have this year much better.''

He has found that analyzing races helped him become a better driver.

''I get to see how and why guys win races, so it's cool to see different things unfold and you get a whole different perspective of the whole event from up top.''

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POLE WINNER: Bryan Clauson will be on the Freedom 100 pole Friday after Thursday's qualifying was rained out.

Clauson, a 21-year-old from nearby Noblesville, Ind., is making his race debut and was awarded the pole based on entrant points.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Josef Newgarden will line up on the front row next to Clauson. Stefan Wilson, of Michael Andretti's team, and Victor Garcia, from Team Moore Racing, will start on the second row for the 40-lap race.

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Associated Press Sports Writer Cliff Brunt in Indianapolis contributed to this report.


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