"Imitation is the sincerest flattery," said English cleric and overall eccentric Charles Caleb Colton, but that's just a fancy-pants way of saying a good idea is one worth stealing.
With that in mind, when I settled into my easy chair for this past Sunday's NASCAR Cup race at Texas, I gave myself an assignment: Is there anything about NASCAR that IndyCar should steal? (Ed: please do NOT put a Danica Patrick joke here.)
Preemptive note to the purists out there whose hackles are slowly going to full-raised position: Yes, I honor and respect the traditions and history of IndyCar racing (Ed: well, as much of it as you know, that is). As a matter of fact, I am against the Designated Hitter in baseball, was the first to picket against New Coke and have signed petitions against the Red Sox and Cubs ever moving out of Fenway and Wrigley, respectively.
What I'm not against is change for the better. For example, the first VCR my family owned was roughly the size and weight of my footlocker in boot camp. Flash forward to today, where most DVRs are wafer-thin, weigh as much a new-born kitten and can play discs that hold hours and hours more content - in High Definition - than a VCR cassette. (Ed: remember those people who stubbornly stuck with BetaMax and LaserDiscs?)
Back to the matter at hand, and the interesting thing is I could only see a couple things that IndyCar should consider swiping from NASCAR, mostly because the nature of racing in the two series doesn't lend itself otherwise. I mean, I just don't see how Ryan Hunter-Reay could bump-draft or dump another driver without completely wrecking his own race.
But one thing IndyCar should implement is NASCAR-style double-file restarts, including the wave-around rule to get lapped cars a lap back and to the rear of the field before the green. In my opinion this type of restart - which is the norm for most Saturday night shows at local tracks - creates excitement two ways.
First, by bunching the lead-lap cars and giving the leader the option of which lane to restart from, a scramble for position when the green flag falls is created. (Ed: Can you say "push-to-pass" extravaganza?)
Secondly, by getting more cars back on the lead lap through the wave-around, giving teams more chances to play with strategy and recover from early-race mistakes. Even if some of the slower teams go back a lap down or more, at least it gives them a chance to hang with the faster cars on the lead lap - something they absolutely do not have now.
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Will IndyCar drivers dislike double-file restarts as much as some NASCAR racers did when the concept was first introduced last season? Probably. The front runners week in and week out (Ed: He's looking at you Penske and Ganassi) definitely won't like it, at first. Will there be more cautions and wrecks? Maybe, again at first as everyone adjusts. But the first time a driver gets to restart from five rows behind the leaders instead of being 10th in a line, or a driver wins after going a lap down early because of a cut tire, I suspect the teams and drivers will like it a lot.
And while we're talking about starting, it's not NASCAR but I think IndyCar should use F1-style standing starts on all road and street courses. As it is now the first-corner mayhem often comes from farther back in the field as the leaders bolt the start and slide through, but with a standing start every position from first back is up for grabs.
My final word on IndyCar starts and restarts is: consistency. Even if the series doesn't follow my wise advice on restarts, at the very least it needs to tighten up the current starting procedure. There wasn't a lot of "double-file" that I saw this past season; just a lot of the leader bolting and everyone following. Keep ‘em side-by-side and together until that green flag falls, Race Control, and you'd be amazed at how much more exciting is it.
The astute reader, or at least anyone who got this far, will realize that what I'm proposing is very close to what Major League Baseball's American League did with the Designated Hitter: tweak the rules simply to pump up the excitement and get folks into the seats.
And I'm on record as being against the Designated Hitter, so how do I square my thinking on double-file restarts for IndyCar? Simply this: I don't believe the Designated Hitter improved baseball in the least bit.
As a kid, I liked watching pitchers like Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson taking their swings. Even more, those guys pitched fearlessly, never hesitating to brush back a batter bat or hit one, even though they themselves would soon be in the batter's box and at the mercy of their opponent. The Designated Hitter removed important strategic decisions from the game, diminishing it in favor of an extended version of batting practice.
Double file restarts and wave-arounds, on the other hand, add strategic opportunities, without diminishing the IndyCar series. At least that's my opinion. You're free to disagree, and let me know. Or, give me your ideas for things IndyCar can "borrow" from other series.
Pot: stirred. Over to you.