Friday, February 10, 2012

A Brief Proposal On Standing Starts

Hi Randy,

I can’t believe I’m discussing this topic; the mere mention of a standing start in IndyCar is often enough to cause eyeballs to bulge out of their sockets and veins in the forehead to begin to pulse angrily. And yes, I agree that the rolling start is a part of American open wheel heritage; it’s something I enjoy and value as part of the IZOD IndyCar Series.


The standing start is contentious, intriguing, and exotic all at once. Would it hurt to try it at perhaps one race in 2012?

Let’s think about this in terms of Sonoma. The race at Infineon is wildly popular with sponsors, and we understand why it’s on the schedule. Yet in terms of the fan watching at home, the race has traditionally been somewhat of a parade, with minimal passing.

I’m not saying incorporating a standing start at a race like Sonoma will turn it into a barn-burner, but I do think it could very easily add a level of interest and uniqueness to the race that could make one of the least popular circuits in terms of fan interest have a bit of a storyline. Will it go cleanly? Will the drivers accustomed to standing starts be able to take advantage of it? Will it shake things up?

No, it isn’t a cure-all, and it could easily be called just a gimmick. And I’m certainly not advocating it across all twisties on the schedule. Of course, you’re also taking a risk in doing it; the same voices that usually pen vitriol in online forums or to Robin Miller’s mailbag will accuse you of everything from murdering the tradition of American open wheel to stomping on the grave of Carl Fisher. But then again, that’s going to happen for some real or imagined slight at some point this season, anyhow. (Remind me to send you a hip flask, by the way).

Right now, we’ve got a race that’s a non-starter among many fans. We also have the potential to try something new, which at the least will excite comment among fans. Let’s put the two together and see what happens. If it doesn’t catch on, then oh well, you’ve still got an event the sponsors love, don’t you?

Let’s retain our unique identity as the top series in American open wheel racing, but be secure enough in that identity to change things up for a race. I’m not sure if it will pan out, but it can’t hurt to try.


  1. I like the idea of standing starts at select races, but rather than Infineon, what about at the street circuits. The run up to the SF at a street race is almost always tight. I know the run up to SF at Infineon is tight as well, but for the natural terrain road courses that are on the IndyCar calendar, you seldom have a a tight 90 or hairpin as T1.

  2. I'm a fan of the rolling start. So yea, I'm biased. Introducing a standing start for a single race has the potential for increased damage to cars & drivers due to lack of practice/skill. How many times have we watched an F1 race start only to see carnage in T1 taking cars out of the race and causing a yellow condition on Lap 1. Sorry, that's just not fun for this race fan.

    1. Well, you cannot deny that also has happened rather often with rolling starts/restarts at St. Pete and Toronto, causing extended yellows!

    2. "How many times have we watched an F1 race start only to see carnage in T1 taking cars out of the race and causing a yellow condition on Lap 1."

      Erm, not as often as you'd think, I'd guess. As a matter of fact, I'd wager that if you went back and actually watched the tapes, F1 has averaged 2 or less first lap accidents per year over the course of the last 20 years (this is the span of my fandom, and I have only missed maybe 10 races total in that period). You'll have to take my word for it or do your own research (I don't have the time), but first corner accidents that knock one or more cars out of the race really don't happen much in F1. Wing breakers? Sure, but those happen with rolling starts as well. I say bring the standing starts on.

  3. Absolutely correct, Doug. I'd suggest trying it at Toronto where there is a very obvious problem with the rolling starts. Danica was still exiting T11 as Will was turning into T1 due to that layout. If the front row paces the field at the right speed, they can line up correctly at St. Pete, Sao Paulo, Edmonton, and Baltimore. The other really problematic circuit in that regard is Long Beach, but it doesn't need a tweak for popularity's sake.

    1. I tend to agree with you sejarzo here. IF IF IF the front of the pack would make a proper and disciplined start, and Race Cntrl has the balls to enforce it, there would be few problems with all forms of starts.

  4. I'm for it in theory, but as always, the 'devil is in the details', so to not go 'ass-first' into this thing, the rules will need to be agreed upon prior to accepting this form of start. Whether that's possible for this season, I don't know.

    Being more of a 'black and white' sort of guy when it comes to rules-making and enforcement, as much as humanly possible, my thoughts are thus:

    1. Either do it for all road/streets or none - I assume some different equipment (transmission) is necessary, so incorporate that cost over all non-ovals, not just one or two races.
    2. False starting from standing I see as a potential problem (espec mid-pack and back). It would need to be addressed via the rules prior to the season and require some specific enforcement. Personally, I'd prefer a 'back of the pack' penalty, requiring re-grids of cars (time consuming).

    Ahhh, I'm getting too sucked into the details again, but IN THEORY, I'm all for trying something new. Whether it is at all practical and a net positive for the sport overall, I'm not so very sure. (How's that for riding the fence?)

  5. Personally I am a fan of the classic LeMans driver sprint to the grid.

    Another option is two or three races a year have the cars parked facing backwards and force the drivers to execute a three point turn heading in the right direction. That would really separate the men from the boys.

  6. Good comments, guys.

    I mentioned Infineon due to it being a somewhat lackluster race on the schedule, but that's not a bad idea--there are some places where the rolling starts have been more of an issue. I guess my bigger point is to try it on a limited scale first.

    Remembering when ChampCar did it, I seem to remember a lot of worries about lack of experience as well. It's worth noting that first standing start at Portland went very well indeed. There's no guarantee history will repeat itself, but it can be done.

  7. Long Beach would also be a great place to try standing starts. There's a heritage with F1 and Champ Car (Power, Wilson, Servia, etc.) doing it there, and, with electronic launch control on the DW12, it might just work.

    However, standing re-starts might not be such a good idea:)

  8. I stopped clinging to open wheel "purity" a year or so ago. I can go to Gas City on Friday night when I want to see racing Purity. For Indycar, I now admit it's a show, it needs to grow the fan base. The NFL changes rules every year... to tweak their product for greater market value.

    So I agree with JP's hyperbole, start 'em backwards, standing still, or require completion of a math problem inside the cockpit before their engine will start. Whatever it takes to get us away from the #1 requirement for landing a ride to be how much sponsorship money you bring.