Beaux Barfield, the new president of competition in the IZOD IndyCar Series, agreed to answer questions from readers of RACER and RACER.com. We gathered the best of them, threw in a couple of our own, and Beaux came back with these answers. Thanks to @JohnHendricks3, @PDLounge, @Kilovar1959, @TornadoRebel, @PascalF1, @CVillalobos_27 and Rory Brook for their contributions. Other contributors wished to remain anonymous.
Q. Will heat races on ovals give championship points or is it just for starting positions?
A. That is still to be determined. The pole position point will still be there for the winner of the final heat race and we've kicked around a few ideas for a points structure for all heats to greater incentivize passing and moving through the field, but we haven't finalized that yet.
Q. Standing starts – when and where?
A. Toward the end of the season but it's still to be determined. I've got my eye on a few events but I don't want to say anything until we get closer to making it official. There are potential issues mechanically that need to be fine-tuned, and I'm aware people say that there's the possibility of people stalling, but I don't see a lot of complaints about the possibility of stalling leaving the pit box. I realize they're not exactly the same – it's not the same as having 28 or 29 drivers sitting on the grid trying to make the greatest start ever – but it's not totally different, either.
Q. Last year Dario Franchitti hit the tires in Will Power's pit at Milwaukee. Should incidents like that be punished or not? I'm thinking with 28 or 29 cars out there and these cars having really long noses, there could be a problem with getting into pit boxes at places like Mid-Ohio and probably others.
A. Well there are two parts to my answer. I agree with there being no call on Dario, because I didn't think it was appropriate for Will's crew to put their tires out so early and make it difficult for Dario to get into his pit box. But there's a bigger picture of teams needing to co-exist peacefully in pit lane, and, by and large, I think if we see some similar pit lane incidents as we did last year, there will be more penalties than there have been in the past.
Q. Will IndyCar ever run at places like Road Atlanta or Road America?
A. Honestly, those are two venues that have specifically been mentioned since I've been in the IndyCar offices over the last two months. I think Road America is on everyone's wish list among teams, drivers and the personnel in the IndyCar office. Road Atlanta would probably require a little more cooperation and coordination from different entities than Road America would, but certainly they are both venues that could be seen on the IndyCar calendar in years to come.
Q. What can be done, if anything, to ensure a more aligned, slower start to this year's Indianapolis 500?
A. One thing I've got my eye on that pertains not only to Indy but also other IndyCar events is the use of the pace car and how it controls the field. Over the last 10-plus years, I've honestly been baffled by the fact that the pace car pulls off the lap before the green flag and basically allows the leaders to 1) go early, and 2) set a pace that doesn't give a chance to the rest of the cars to keep up and/or be properly aligned.
So, from the very first green flag this year, we shall be more aggressive in how we use the pace car to manage the rolling grid formations. That's a large step, I believe, to having proper starts at every circuit. At Long Beach, for instance, if the pace car stayed on track all the way to pit in, that would force the leaders to restrict their speed for longer which would allow even those at the back of the grid to get in position before the green.
Q. I'd love a return to the “flying start” at the 500, with 11 rows of three taking the flag. Will you call off a strung-out start?
A. Interesting question because ultimately every race series I've ever been a part of, the race director himself did not call off a start. That responsibility and power lies in the hands of the starter. I will empower the starters as such moving forward. Therefore, it's important that they know what my expectations are and what I will and will not tolerate, and it is then up to them to make the final decision when the cars are coming at them. I think that's another thing that will contribute to improved starts for us this year.
Q. What is being done to get Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing an engine deal? This is more than an outrage...It shows disrespect.
A. Although this has been overtaken by events, (Her deal with Honda was confirmed on Friday –Ed.) I want to reply anyway. I appreciate the fan support for all of our teams and Sarah has had her ups and downs as a driver and team owner and all of us at IndyCar acknowledge, appreciate and respect that. There were people in the office working very hard, doing everything in their power to make sure that her team had a deal, although it was largely out of our control.
Q. You made the move to SA2010 helmets this year. Will you upgrade to the FIA "superhelmet" in the future?
A. That decision is not directly in my control, although I have some influence over it. We have a director of all safety for IndyCar, Jeff Horton, and I defer to him as he has the expertise and knowledge and spends all of his time researching and developing those kinds of issues.
Q. Will Katherine Legge be eligible as a rookie despite doing two seasons in Champ Car?
A. Honestly, I haven't even crossed that bridge yet. I'll wait until I see what we have as a rookie field and then take a step forward when that's finalized.
Q. Blocking on ovals – how will you define what's allowed and what isn't? And will it vary between Iowa say, compared with Indy?
A. It's difficult for me to step forward with a stance on rules if that varies from event to event. Some races have different procedures, but I think the rules themselves and need to be consistent and understandable. My stance on defending – as opposed to blocking – does not change dramatically between road course and ovals. I realize there are some special things that need to be considered at Indy, but ultimately, in my opinion, it is acceptable to initiate a move in order to defend a position. When it becomes an absolute move in reaction to a pursuer, or it's such a major move that it becomes dangerous to the other driver, that is where I draw the line and I will intervene and take action when necessary.