With the 2014 season about to begin, it seems like a good time to review an offseason of change.
Let’s begin with the series’ name. Verizon has signed on to be the new title sponsor. Sure, compared to, oh, NASCAR, the dollar amounts are tiny, but the commitment to real promotion is vital. Verizon has already shown a commitment to the series, so their increased involvement is only a positive.
Qualifying for the Indy 500 has proven to be the most controversial, but least consequential, change. In essence, Pole Day and Bump/Fill Day have been flipped, with the Fast Nine being determined on Saturday and the pole being settled in the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday. Yes, it’s a gimmick masking the fact there will likely be no real bumping, but that’s the point.
Sure traditionalists have balked, but if we’re honest, qualifying, outside of the pole shootout, has become something of a non-event. Until 40+ entries make attempts, this will remain the case. So, if a gimmick that MIGHT get more national television exposure tweaks it, what’s the harm?
Relatedly, qualifying at Indy only will now earn drivers and teams championship points. This was likely meant to encourage everyone that makes the show on Saturday to run just as hard on Sunday. Will it work? Given that the 500 miles is all anyone really cares about, it seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, the three 500-mile races (Indy, Pocono and Fontana) will now be worth double the points of the other events. Given the fact that they are double the length of most other events, it makes some sense to prioritize them, but it ignores the real challenges of road and street courses.
On the engine front, rules and regulations have also undergone major changes. Most significantly, for fans at least, is the elimination of the 10-grid-spot penalty for changing an engine before hitting the mileage number (now 2,500 miles). Thanks to a number of technical changes, road course speeds should escalate as engines are now expected to reach 700-750hp.
Of all the other changes that have been announced, the near-elimination of double-file restarts will sure to be the one that fans notice the most. Exciting though they are, double-file restarts simply didn’t work at a venue like Long Beach.
Years from now, however, structural changes to the Dallara may prove to be far more important than the other changes.