Pit road will remain open from the outset of non-emergency full-course cautions on road and street courses for the rest of the season, IndyCar president of competition Beaux Barfield announced Monday. The rule will make its official debut this weekend at Long Beach.
“The pits have historically been closed during full-course yellows to make sure that not only the field is under control but in order before opening the pits,” he said. “As such, it leads to this rush when all 26 cars come in at the same time. It can be exciting but it definitely is a contributing factor to some of the pit lane issues that we've had in the recent past.”
An accident at Long Beach 2011, shown below, involved Marco Andretti and Sebastien Bourdais - Andretti and Bourdais, then driving for Dale Coyne Racing, collided on exit. Long Beach has had prior pit lane incidents before, the most notable of which was Michael Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi's collision in the pits in 1991, but with a different time and set of rules.
Barfield has already shown he would delay closing the pits the instant a full-course caution flew in the first two races of 2012 at St. Petersburg and Barber. While the rush of a full field of cars entering the pits has its moments of excitement, it's also been somewhat of a culprit for pit lane issues in recent years.
“I've delayed the call of the full-course yellows during the first few races, being cognizant of where the leader is and the possibility of disadvantaging the leader and other cars in the field that have legitimate gaps over the cars behind them if that yellow is too early,” he said. “First and foremost it can only be called in a non-emergency situation when the driver is not in immediate danger so you can wait a half a lap to make sure you've given everybody a chance to pit before you call the full-course yellow.
“A pits open full-course yellow would be similar so you give the leader the first chance to pit when you've made the announcement. It probably puts slightly less emphasis on pit work or allows people to maintain that advantage where they might be able to make more adjustments in the pits.”
The safety car will be dispatched to pick up the next competitor – either one that remains on the track or comes out of the pits – until the restart.
"It keeps the field organized in such a way that there's no reorder when we go back to green, and it potentially shortens the yellows," Barfield added. "Now we're not going full-course yellow, waiting a lap to gather the cars and there's less chance for wave-arounds at the end.
"Considering we've had three- and four-lap yellows already this year, which I'm happy with, this will allow for yellows as short as two laps."
On another note, cars not on the lead lap during an upcoming restart in the final 20 laps will peel off and drive through pit lane on the speed limiter and cycle back to the end of the line. That came into play at Barber for the first time.
"That keeps everybody up front racing for position and keeps the race interesting to the end," Barfield said.