The NTT IndyCar Series hopes to solve the problem of having red flags rob precious time from its practice sessions by shifting to a new scheduling format.
Although the plan awaits final confirmation on if it will be implemented at some or all of the races on the calendar (barring the Indy 500), the change rings of a commonsense approach that warrants a try at the opening rounds.
“This was brought up by a driver, and it was like we think it’s a pretty cool idea,” IndyCar president Jay Frye told RACER. “So when we have a 45-minute practice and we have a 10-minute red flag because of a crash or something of that nature, that takes away a lot of time; it’s taking a big percentage of that practice away.
“So what can we do? What we’ll do is we’ll look at a banking 60-minute windows. When we go to a race weekend, there’s something on the track all the time and the weekends are busy. There’s a lot of content for the fans, which is great, but if we lose time in our sessions we can’t get it back. So, we’re going to start trying to bank 60-minute windows for a 45-minute practice. So if we have an eight-minute red flag, we can give them eight minutes back and get them the full 45 minutes they’re expecting.”
Frye understands that some red flags might consume more time than the 60-minute windows offer, but most stoppages for spins and less intensive crashes and cleanups should be ripe for swift handling.
“At least we have a little bit of time that we can try to maximize the 45 minutes, and if there’s no red, then there’s a 15-minute break, built in for the corner workers to have a break, or for our track safety team to go out and do something on track, and whatnot,” he said. “We think this is a good balance, to try to maximize it for the teams, take care of the people that are working at the venue and to give our fans as much of that practice time as we possibly can.”
The next step for IndyCar is to decide how often the 60-minute plan will be implemented.
“The street and road courses are primarily what we’re looking at,” Frye added. “And we might not be able to do it all this year. Maybe we can’t do it everywhere. But we’ll try it out as many places as we can see how it works. If it doesn’t work right, we can fine tune it for 2023.”