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January 22, 2013

de la Bastide: IndyCar announces schedule changes

Iowa Speedway comes up with an interesting plan

There is nothing worse than watching an auto race that is going to be determined by fuel mileage. Fortunately, IndyCar is trying to alleviate that problem.

Occasionally, a race where pit and fuel strategy are critical factors in determining a race winner is OK, but too many times fuel economy dictates who wins.

NASCAR races at the Indianapolis, Pocono, Kansas and other tracks always seems to come down to the driver who stretches fuel for the most laps. The announcers proclaim the fuel window in a certain number of laps and then a driver and team pushes that window for the victory. It makes one wonder if there was some extra fuel hidden somewhere.

IndyCar announced Monday that the race distance for four events were being changed in an effort to discourage fuel-mileage racing. After all, the drivers are supposed to race flat out and not hold back in an effort to get every mile per gallon out of the car.

Three of the races with altered distances are either a street or road course. Long Beach will see a decrease of five laps to 80, St. Petersburg will be extended by 10 laps to 110 and Mid-Ohio will be increased by five laps to 90.

The race at the Milwaukee Mile will be lengthened by 25 laps to make it 250.

According to IndyCar, the new distances better match traditional fuel windows on each circuit.

“Changing the distances at these races will hopefully eliminate the strategy of saving fuel from the drop of the green flag,” Beaux Barfield, Izod IndyCar Series race director, said. “That will enable our teams and drivers to race hard for the full distance and improve the event’s entertainment value for the fans.”

Since St. Petersburg is the first race of the 2013 season, it will be interesting to watch to see if the increased distance has the desired impact.

IndyCar officials announced the 2013 television schedule with ABC covering six of the 19 events, including the Indianapolis 500, and the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) televising the remaining 13 races.

Series officials also announced that the starting field at the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 13 will be determined by three 30-lap heat races. The heat races will be run on Saturday and the feature event on Sunday.

Heat race one will consist of even-numbered positions, starting with position 8, from single car qualifying The second heat race will consist of the odd-numbered positions, starting with position 7 from qualifying.

The top two finishers in these two heat races will than compete in the third heat race along with the top six qualifiers to determine the first five rows for the Iowa Corn Indy 250.

It’s an interesting concept and should add some excitement to the Iowa race. What’s needed is for NBCSN to step up and television the three heat races. If the concept proves popular with fans, it could be implemented at other oval tracks, such as the Milwaukee Mile.

Ken de la Bastide may be reached at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com or 765-454-8580.

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