IndyCar, which had had its title go down to the final round of the championship in a pure, unaffected format since 2006, has now joined the points-changing party.
The Verizon IndyCar Series’ three 500-mile races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Fontana will all have double points.
A base for the win at the Indianapolis 500, for example, will be 100 points instead of 50, with second 80 (40), third 70 (35), fourth 64 (32) and fifth 60 (30). Points descend by four from there 56-52-48-44-40 down to 10th.
From 11th on back, the single point drop per position (11th-19, 12th-18, etc.) doubles as well. So it goes 38-36-34 and so on and so forth.
All qualifiers on the first day in spots 1-33 get points in descending order from 33 (first) down to 1 (33rd). On Sunday, when the fast nine is set, 9 points are on offer for the pole sitter and ninth will take home 1 point. A one-point drop per position fills the interim gaps.
In some respects, this counteracts the three double-header street course races that premiered in 2013. Scott Dixon racked up the most points from those six races last year.
There were other changes announced, too.
For manufacturer points, rather than 9 points to the top-scoring driver per manufacturer and 6 to the top driver of the second manufacturer per race, the top five will score per race. That descends 50-40-35-32-30 at the 15 non-500-mile races and 100-80-70-64-60 at the three 500-milers, for cars using one of their four assigned engines throughout the year.
Manufacturers will receive a 10-point award for each of their 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engines that reach the 2,500-mile change-out threshold set by INDYCAR for 2014.
Bonus points will be awarded to the manufacturer that leads the most laps (2 points), leads at least one lap (1 point) and earns the Verizon P1 Award (1 point), with the exception of the Indianapolis 500.
The 10-grid-spot penalty levied on an entry whose engine was changed before it met the mileage threshold or surpassed the mandated number of engines for the season is removed. Instead, 10 points will be deducted from the manufacturer’s total for each occurrence.
Entrant-initiated engine change-outs will result in the loss of 10 driver and entrant points.
An unapproved engine change-out by an entry will result in it starting from the rear of the grid in the next race. No engine change-out grid penalties will be served during the Indianapolis 500. Penalties carried over into or earned at the Indianapolis 500 will be served at the subsequent race.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.