There will be more post-race coverage of the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT throughout this week on RACER.com, but two pressing issues involving the race outcome and restart procedure came up in the aftermath of Sunday's race.
ON THE SECOND-TO-LAST RESTART – After the series had only five caution flags total between Toronto in early July and Sonoma last race, with the caution-free races at Edmonton and Mid-Ohio sandwiched in-between, Baltimore's streets more than made up for a lack of yellow flags with a season-high nine cautions (previous high was eight at Indianapolis) for 24 laps.
That said, the most important restart off one of said yellows came on lap 69, when Ryan Hunter-Reay made the move on Ryan Briscoe after restarting from the second position.
Naturally, there were two schools of thought. All drivers and IndyCar president of competition Beaux Barfield weighed in on the matter, but there was no clear consensus established.
Barfield, whose succinct “When it's green, they can go,” would be the easiest way to describe it, it's not necessarily that simple. Barfield expanded on that during his media availability immediately following the race.
First, regarding Hunter-Reay: “There's no reason for him to pause at that point as he was in the acceleration zone,” he said. “It was obvious there'd be a non-call. Between the timing of the acceleration zone, when the flag came out, with the speed Briscoe was going, and the speed Hunter-Reay was appropriately going, that there was a no-call.
“At the first (acceleration) cone, when you get to the first cone, Briscoe's completely free to go there before the green comes out. In my opinion, it was a risk to restart on the outside when everyone had been choosing the inside. That probably further compounds either their issues or the fact he got hung out to dry.”
Briscoe's take was more pronounced following his TV interview and in the post-race press conference, after he had been told Barfield's explanation earlier on.
“The fact is you're supposed to pair up,” Briscoe said. “He hung back about two car lengths out of the chicane and then he accelerated from two car lengths back before I accelerated and that's not how the restarts work. You come off the last corner, you pair up side by side, and then, within the zone, when the pole sitter, regardless whether he chooses left or right, it doesn't make a difference, when the pole sitter – accelerates they wave the green flag. Not when the second place guy accelerates from two car lengths back, which is what happened.”
Hunter-Reay – the beneficiary based on the situation – was fair in evaluating the situation objectively rather than immediately saying his side was better in leaning more toward Barfield's explanation.
“On the restart thing, every time I came out of the chicane the flagger was sitting there getting ready to wave it and they were waving it – right as the first row paired up, they were waving it, especially later in the race. And I knew that. I came out of the chicane and got right next to Briscoe, and boom, the green was out and I think he was looking out his peripheral at me and waiting for me – the flag was green.
“I definitely jumped out and I'm happy about it. But you know, it sucked for him for sure. I don't know what happened behind me today but I want to commend the drivers that were running up front. We were wheel‑to‑wheel the whole time, really late passes but everything was clean.”
“It might have seemed like one motion to him because granted he's waiting for me to catch up to him so I could see how he would think that but I came off the throttle to wait for a moment. I was just staring at the starter and not even looking at him because I knew how early they were throwing it.”
There are two rules to note here regarding the restart procedure from the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook. Rule 188.8.131.52 states: When the Track is clear for racing, the Safety Car will assist the field in preparing for a restart. At the appropriate time, the flashing lights will be turned off, indicating intent to restart. The leader is required to maintain the pace lap speed until reaching a point designated by IndyCar near the start/finish line when the leader shall accelerate smoothly back to racing speed and the green condition will then be declared. All Car(s) must maintain their respective Track position for the restart.
Rule 184.108.40.206 states: The Race Director shall determine the restart procedures as he deems appropriate. This includes when to give the proper passing signal, whether a proper passing signal has been given, whether to move lapped Cars to the rear of the field, whether the leader or any other Car fails to restart the Race as directed, and the type and timing of any penalty. All such decisions made by the Race Director may not be protested or appealed.
AND ON RESTARTS IN GENERAL – IndyCar still employed double-file restarts rather than opting to employ a single-file restart given the chicane. That said, the option could have existed whether to have the cars straddle the chicane on either side rather than, as they did, take the chicane in single-file formation and then form up for a double-file restart. At no point in the race did more than five or six rows of cars pair up, either on the initial start or any of the nine restarts.
Barfield, who was present at Baltimore last year in directing the American Le Mans Series race, also expanded on the strategy to go through the chicane rather than straddle it.
“I just had issues there last year (with ALMS) I was concerned about,” he said. “When you go to straddle the chicane, to get the cars paired up, the right side of the tracks is so much bumpier. So when you start to increase speed inevitably over the track, the guys at the back on the right side could definitely sustain damage over the track. I was reluctant to do that.”
Briscoe, on this point, more or less agreed with Barfield's assessment and interpretation of how to handle the chicane and restarts.
“Yeah we did discuss it, Beaux was looking after that,” he said. “They straddled the chicane. The problem is when you get ten rows back or seven or eight – the cars that were further back, they would end up because the leaders would accelerate, the rear cars would be going over the railroad tracks so we just decided, as we did last year, to go through the chicane single file and pair up after that.”