Transatlantic review: IndyCar takes a leaf out of F1's book

by Samarth Kanal on 2nd August 2018

The latest US IndyCar and NASCAR Cup news round-up 

IndyCar considers F1-style licence // Laguna Seca replaces Sonoma // Night racing returns to Iowa // Wallace unhurt after brake failure // Windscreen wipers banned //

IndyCar Mid-Ohio 2018

IndyCar considers ‘superlicence’-type system

IndyCar may implement a Formula 1-style system where drivers have to gain eligibility to race in the series.

According to RACER, the move comes as the organiser want to better align IndyCar with its feeder competition Indy Lights and require IndyCar drivers to race in Indy Lights first.

Drivers who have competed in F1 and the NASCAR Cup Series will gain automatic eligibility to race in IndyCar.

“It’s a guideline, something we didn’t have before, and as we’ve had a lot of expansion lately we thought it was appropriate to create a formula on how to become an IndyCar driver,” said Jay Frye, IndyCar competition director.

“Not every series in the world is mentioned, so we’ll take each case individually, and some are streamlined for licensing like Formula 1 and the Monster Energy Cup Series. But, overall, we want to focus this process and use Indy Lights as a training ground, where necessary, to get drivers ready for our diverse set of tracks and challenges in IndyCar.”

IndyCar may also require drivers to gain a testing licence, with experience required in IndyCar, Lights or Pro Mazda. That would put drivers such as Santino Ferucci and former DTM racer Robert Wickens in a tough spot, although it has been reported that IndyCar will make exceptions depending on drivers’ experience.

Mazda will also end its support of the Road to Indy programme, which provided scholarships to drivers who won IndyCar feeder series titles such as USF2000 and Lights, after nine years.

Laguna Seca replaces Sonoma

Laguna Seca last hosted a Champ Car round in 2004, but has never hosted an IndyCar race; the California circuit will finally do so in 2019.

Sonoma, host of the last three season finales, will not return to the calendar as Laguna Seca takes its place having signed a three-year deal with the series. Sonoma’s contract expires in 2018.

“Sonoma Raceway has invested heavily to build IndyCar’s brand and following in Northern California over the last 14 years, and we would be happy to continue that effort, but only under a sustainable business model,” read a statement from Sonoma president Steve Page. “If the series determines their long-term interests are better served by moving the Sonoma race to another venue, that is a business decision they are obviously entitled to make, and we will turn our attention to other opportunities.”

IndyCar parent company CEO Mark Miles told Motorsport.com: "We don’t subscribe to the theory that two events in the same general region doesn’t work, so we began these conversations with Laguna Seca not even knowing what the dates might be.

“And, to be fair, Steve at Sonoma never took the position that his track had to be the season finale; it’s that he didn’t want a race at another venue in a similar region.

“So our agreement with Laguna Seca came about not because we’d set off down the path of trying to find a new venue for our season finale, and not because we wanted to replace Sonoma Raceway but because we wanted Laguna Seca on our schedule, period.

"From a financial standpoint this was a business decision and the right decision,” added Miles.

Sonoma hasn’t attracted sell-out crowds to its non-NASCAR races, and, while Miles stresses that the two California circuits wouldn’t clash on the calendar, it’s clear that having two tracks just 150 miles apart in the same state isn’t an attractive proposition for the series. Particularly given the lack of interest in Sonoma as a venue for fans.

The race at Laguna Seca will take place on September 20-22, 2019; discussions over IndyCar’s calendar continue.

Night racing returns to Iowa

Iowa Speedway will host an IndyCar race under the floodlights in 2019.

The 1.4km short-track oval has hosted 12 races since 2007 but only four at night – the last occurring in 2015,.

“Our cars look great under the lights, and the competition should be even more fierce given what should be cooler conditions,” said IndyCar parent company CEO Mark Miles.

Iowa Speedway president David Hyatt called the return of night racing at Iowa “exciting news” and a “boon for the local economy” as he expects a boost in attendance for the race on July 20.

Wallace unhurt after brake failure

Darrell Wallace Jr escaped injury after his brakes failed at Pocono on Sunday. The no43 driver slammed into the Turn 1 wall with five laps remaining, and, after a few seconds, managed to climb out of the car unaided.

“There’s no feeling like being helpless in that situation going off into Turn 1, and it scared the hell out of me,” he said to NBC outside the medical centre.

“I didn’t know if I was going to remember it if I hit or not so we’re good. Bit my cheek, banged my foot off the pedal. I’m OK though. I’ll wake up tomorrow and be a little sore, but the safety’s come a long way.

“So it’s good to be able to climb out of the car. The EMTs [Emergency Medical Technicians] were worried that I didn’t let the window net down fast enough, and I was like, ‘Hell, that’s the last thing I thought about! I’m sorry!’

“But everything was good. They gave me an ultrasound, no twins or anything, so I’m good,” he quipped.

Wallace will remain with Richard Petty Motorsports until at least 2020 as the squad picked up a multi-year option with the 24-year-old.

NASCAR bans windshield wipers in the dry

Teams will no longer be able to use windscreen wipers in dry conditions as the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will ban the practice in 2019.

In 2015, teams began using windscreen wipers at road courses such as Watkins Glen and Sonoma in order to gain a suspected aero advantage.

The rule will change to allow teams to install a wiper blade only if rain tyres are in use at NASCAR’s road courses.

Rain is expected to fall on the next Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen, this weekend.

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