No plans for IndyCar to get rid of standing starts, says Walker

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INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker has said that the series will not abandon standing starts, but also concedes that it has work to do to make them come off cleaner.

Last weekend’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis began in chaos when pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra failed to move from his position on the grid. Seconds later, rookies Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin plowed into the Colombian, spraying debris everywhere along the front stretch.

The Verizon IndyCar Series brought back standing starts last season, but on Thursday at Indianapolis, Walker said “the system we have on our cars is not as good as it needs to be.”

“It’s tricky to set up. The manufacturers set that up, the way the system behaves. It’s enough to say it’s not foolproof. It needs a lot more work than we’ve given it,” he added to the Associated Press.

“Even if the standing start doesn’t work, there’s a function called anti-stall. The engine should always be running. I don’t think the manufactures have gotten that one correct yet.

“They’re trying to go fast and we’re trying to make sure the engine is running when something goes wrong. The car isn’t perfect.”

Team owner Ed Carpenter also noted the drivers’ difficulties with the current system in post-race last weekend.

“I can think of just two where no one has gone off the grid…It’s not that I’m against them,” he said. “Juan [Pablo Montoya] stalled and he’s done more than anyone else. But right now they don’t go off well. They’re exciting where they work.

“I stalled, Charlie [Kimball] stalled, and this one just happened to be where guys stalled up front. It’s not that we don’t know what we’re doing. But right now it’s hard to do with the system we have.”

In hindsight, Walker feels the series should have provided drivers more time to practice the standing starts, but noted that most of the drivers don’t want to get rid of them.

He also thought that the cars were spaced out on the grid too closely, and that both Munoz and Aleshin should have had dedicated spotters on the IMS Pagoda tower.

“We gave them permission to put a spotter on the roof, right on top of the Pagoda,” Walker maintained.

“Usually, only Christ gets to stand up there. There’s only so much we can do.”

The standing starts will return for the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader in June.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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