Q: I couldn’t agree more with Will Power that the pits being closed during a yellow is a B.S. rule. Why can’t the powers that run IndyCar change it? Rossi, Power and Dixon deserved better.
Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis
RM: See my answer above your question, but both Team Penske and Andretti had an opportunity to pit before that yellow and chose to stay out. Townsend Bell kept warning them, and sure enough, it happened. They got burned. But that doesn’t mean closing the pits is the right thing to do, either.
Q: Power was pretty critical of the yellow flag and closed pit at COTA, and of the IndyCar rules in general on the topic. Is that feeling the consensus in the paddock? What is your view? I can understand both arguments. Also, why did the yellow fly so long at COTA after the wreck? The car was sitting back in the pits for repairs while several more yellow laps were completed. What gives?
RM: The consensus (I’m guessing) is that guys who lead a lot of laps like Power, Dixon, JoNew, Rossi, RHR despise closed pits, and guys in the back love them because it gives them a chance to flip the race with off-strategy and a lucky yellow. See Kyle Novak’s earlier answer above about the caution.
Q: First time writing to you, Robin. I’ve always appreciated your opinion. Once again, the absurd yellow rules took the race away from a couple of drivers that deserved the chance to fight it out for the win, and in the process robbed us of a real finish. I have been to the Indianapolis 500 for every race since 1968, plus many other IndyCar races. I don’t understand why a series continues to use a system that, as Will Power stated, is B.S. Perhaps you can enlighten me? I had hoped that we had seen the last of Danica Patrick last May. I hope that the 500 telecast doesn’t become a Danica commercial and more of her self-promotion. Wish you were given more airtime on NBC.
RM: The first 10 years I was around IndyCar racing, the pits were always open. Then in the late ’70s, maybe at Texas World Speedway, the pits were closed and the pace car was brought out ahead of the field because USAC was having trouble scoring the race. That remained the norm until 2013, when Beaux Barfield (then IndyCar’s chief steward) re-instituted open pits. But it was scrapped halfway through 2014 because some team managers bitched about the strategy being screwed up, and some drivers complained it was too dangerous. Now think about this: a full-course yellow on a street circuit can be plenty dangerous since the drivers will all haul ass after passing the scene of the yellow, but they yell about the danger. And the safety car can be a hazard on a blind corner if guys are running hard. Now, a pace car slows them down and the ensuing pack up puts everyone in the pits together – another dangerous situation.
On the ovals, it used to be insane when everyone raced back to the start-finish line under caution, so it’s probably more dangerous. But as you’ve seen time and time again, that closed pit can screw the leaders and change the completion of the race. Beaux used to catch grief for delaying the yellow when possible to allow the leaders a chance to hit pit road, but that made more sense than ruining somebody’s race.
Q: What a good race at COTA. Do you feel IndyCar should change open pits rule, or do you like it the way it is? Second, boy does Roger Penske have a decision to make if Pagenaud continues to struggle. He has Colton, O’Ward and Rossi to pull from. People say Honda will not let Rossi go, but they thought the same before Pagenaud came aboard. I know it’s early, but who do you think?
RM: I always liked leaving the pits open, and if somebody is flying through Turn 4 and the yellow flashes on and they can get slowed down and pit, good for them. It’s part of racing. Losing the lead and usually the race because of a caution that closes the pits isn’t my idea of real racing, but safety seems to carry the day. Way too early for Penske speculation, but remember R.P. got rid of two-time national champ Tom Sneva for a fresh-faced kid named Mears, so Simon knows the pressure is on to produce.
Q: What a great race we got at COTA. The passing (I think it was Pato O’Ward going around the outside of the massive triple-apex corner), the strategy, and the fantastic result were all the hallmarks of an awesome race. However, IndyCar need to get its act together with red flags. It’s absurd. Two races in a row have had qualifying ruined. In this race it was especially dumb because people were spinning after the timing line after they finished their final laps. They weren’t going to impede anyone, so throw a local yellow for the corner after the timing line (where the spins happened) so people take it easy after they finish their lap and let everyone get a lap in. In most other forms of racing, there has to be a really big accident for anyone to talk about a red flag in qualifying. But IndyCar gives out red flags left, right and center for people having a little spin and getting beached in the gravel.
Beyond the red flag, are there any rumors of IndyCar changing the approach to closing the pits when yellows come out? I know that Power was livid about getting hosed for staying out a little longer, and I do feel for the guys who dominate races only to lose because a yellow comes out and they aren’t allowed to pit. That said, it makes things exciting. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite after my stance on red flags in qualifying. What’s your opinion on the reds in qualifying and closing the pits under yellow?
Max Camposano, Bethlehem, PA
RM: I think IndyCar only goes red when there is a disabled car on the racing surface or just off it (like TK last Saturday) and again, it’s more for safety than anything else. No plans to open the pits to my knowledge (see one of my answers above) and I don’t blame Will for being mad, but his team could have brought him in when the window opened.