LIVE BLOG: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on March 28, 2014 8:13 am
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FRIDAY

5:26 PM – That’ll do it for now from Friday at St. Petersburg. We’ll be using this link all weekend long for updates, so please bookmark us and check back in frequently as we continue to add to it throughout the remaining two days!

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5:16 PM – Dario Franchitti joined the media for a press conference earlier today, and it seems he may have further stoked a war of words going on in the media between Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing.

The sniping originated in an article from Jeff Olson at USA Today in which Tim Cindric essentially downplayed whether Chip Ganassi is worthy of a rivalry with Penske:

“Chip wants to think of it as a rivalry, but we don’t,” said Tim Cindric, president of Team Penske. “It does fit the definition of an intense competition, but rivalries take place over a long period of time. If you want to think of it in baseball terms, it would be the Yankees and the Florida Marlins — a team with a long history against a younger team that came on strong and won a couple of World Series. Maybe that’s not a good analogy, but I don’t see it as the Yankees and Red Sox.”

Dario responded with this quite direct comeback:

I think it’s been a great rivalry. I think it’s been going on for 25 years now. Roger Penske is a class, class operator. He’s first class. I thought Tim’s comments weren’t, in any way. I think they kind of summed him up a little bit. If I had the resources that he’s had in his hands, I would be a little upset with the success ratio they have had recently. I’m very proud of the record that the Ganassi organization and the Target organization has had.

Mr. Cindric will no doubt be asked for his reply at the soonest opportunity, so keep an eye out.

Other notable points from Dario’s press conference: he says he’s feeling “physically quite good and mentally not too bad, either.” He’s getting used to the aftereffects of the concussion and they are lessening over time. He also noted that he will be commuting from Scotland to the races he attends as he is moving back there permanently.

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3:47 PM – Lots to catch up on. Let’s start with the results of a conversation I had this afternoon with Derrick Walker.

On the topic of double-file versus single-file restarts, Marshall Pruett at RACER reported earlier this week that double-file restarts were going away at most tracks this season. It has since been decided that IndyCar will revert to single-file restarts at all tracks. Although there is room for double-file restarts at some events, Walker said it was decided that changing back and forth would result in too much confusion and that implementing single-file across the board would be easier all around. The change means that keeping the field tightly aligned and ensuring that attempts to jump the start are policed effectively will be a top priority as IndyCar works to make single-file restarts as entertaining as possible.

Regarding the new engine change rules, there was some confusion regarding what would constitute an entrant-initiated change that would dock points to the manufacturer and driver and send the car to the rear of the starting grid (as opposed to a manufacturer-initiated change that only docks manufacturer points). Despite earlier discussions and interpretations, Walker confirmed that the terms mean exactly what they sound like. If the manufacturer wants to take the engine out of the car for any reason, then only the manufacturer takes the 10-point hit. If the team wants to change the engine out for any reason, then the team takes the point and starting position hit. This seems obvious, but there was enough confusion earlier in the week to make it worth clarifying.

Why make all of the penalties involved so convoluted? The system is designed to keep manufacturers and teams honest and accountable to each other. There’s no need for a team to take a hit for the decision of a manufacturer (hence the abolishing of the 10-spot grid position penalty), but the hit to the manufacturer alone isn’t sufficient to keep a team from making excuses for fresh engines whenever they feel like it and adversely affecting the manufacturer’s position in the championship.

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