PIT LANE PROCEDURE UPDATE
In reaction to the pit lane incident between Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon and Team Penske's Will Power, the IndyCar Series released a rules update on Friday that expanded upon its pit violation section to govern and punish any efforts to impede a vehicle entering or exiting its pit stall.
Rule 7.9.17 states: Any participant who, in the opinion of the officials, positions a car, equipment, and/or personnel so as to create a hazard or disruption of the event or to interfere with the activities of another competitor may be penalized. And after a week of questions as to why the IndyCar Series did not have its pit stalls clearly marked at Sonoma, fresh yellow paint was put down to reduce any confusion that might exist at Baltimore.
A lot was made about Dixon driving through Power's stall during the ill-fated stop at Sonoma, and with pit boxes that are approximately two-feet shorter than the ones used last weekend, IndyCar has added yellow dashes to mark the accepted blend lines for drivers to drive through a competitors stall. IndyCar referred to them as “courtesy lines” in their meeting with teams Friday morning, and are not official lines that will trigger a penalty if crossed.
“They are purely for reference right now,” IndyCar Race Director Beaux Barfield told RACER. “It's just something we're evaluating for how it might strengthen us going forward for making calls in pit lane. It's primarily for officiating purposes to help us see where people are, air hoses are, tires and that kind of thing.”
Barfield (with Dario Franchitti, RIGHT) also confirmed that he's received mostly positive feedback on the concept, but admits the courtesy lines will require further development at future rounds.
“For the drivers, as low as they are in the cars, I'm not sure they can see everything there in front of them, but if they can be coached in or out during the weekend, maybe they'll get a feel for using the lines,” he added. “I don't think the cars can do anything to completely stay within the courtesy lines every time in a 38-foot [pit] box, but we're trying to look at ways to help out right now.
Opinions on the effectiveness and execution of the blend lines varied on Friday, and it also became apparent that not every drivers knows the courtesy lines are there as nothing more than references to try and follow.
“It's ridiculous what they've done,” said Panther Racing's Oriol Servia. “There's no physical way to not cross the dash lines. I think they need to be a lot close to the car in front. It should be as tight to the rear tire mechanic as possible. Right now you're basically crossing it all the time. I tried to leave without crossing the exit dashes one time – I made a special effort to stay inside and I couldn't do it.”
Graham Rahal had the opposite take and experiences with the courtesy lines.
“They're a little hard to see, but I think it's a good idea in general,” said Rahal, who posted the second-fastest lap in the afternoon. “It hasn't totally fixed the issue, but I don't see why anybody should have any issues with that. We need to keep looking at ways to keep our guys safe. I didn't have any issues using them. You've got to respect the guys around you and give them some extra. Maybe I'm not as aggressive as others coming in or exiting, but you have to be safe at all times and take care of your own guys and the guys on the other teams.”
Schmidt Hamilton Racing's Simon Pagenaud shared Rahal's assessment and applauded the entry/exit guidelines.
“It gives you a good reference as a driver and for the mechanics also,” said the Frenchman, who ran P5 in the second session. “It outlines better your work area. I always love to have more information, so this kind of thing is great because I know the boundaries to work inside. I was right in the inside of the dotted lines, so it worked great for me. This is for safety, so you really can't argue with it.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay agreed with the merits of the courtesy lines, as did Scott Dixon, but both admitted they struggled to stay within them.
NO KIDDIE POOL FOR STEF
Firestone Indy Lights Series veteran Stefan Wilson is making his IndyCar Series debut this weekend alongside his older brother Justin at Dale Coyne Racing, and like many of those who've come before his this year in the No. 18 car, Stef is hoping to catch the attention of team owners and potential sponsors while working from the hardest of situations.
“I kind of described it as being thrown into the deep end of the pool with no armbands on, getting to debut here at the Grand Prix of Baltimore,” he said. “After the first practice session, I say it was more like being thrown into the ocean without arm bands! There's definitely a huge learning curve, it's definitely one of the toughest tracks in the series. It's so bumpy out there; there's a lot of sections [where] it doesn't really take much to lock the wheel and find yourself in a tricky position.”
Wilson told RACER the chances of turning up and impressing on his series debut are slim, but hopes to make a positive impression, regardless of where he finishes.
“I definitely want to put on a good showing. I think that will definitely help me for next year,” he continued. “But at the same time we've got to set realistic expectations without a lot of testing and without a lot of seat time in the Indy car. It's going to be a lot to get up to speed. I just need to do the best I can and the main thing for me is to come out of the weekend knowing more than when I came into the weekend. I'm just treating it as an opportunity to gain experience if something does come about next year. It's important to go out there and have a clean race just so other teams can see that I have what it takes to be in the series.”
Wilson ended the day 24th, 2.9 seconds shy of his brother who placed 17th.