IndyCar: Double points for Indy 500, Sonoma only, no standing starts and other 2015 rules changes announced

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The Verizon IndyCar Series will have several rule changes for the 2015 season. There will be tweaks to the points allocations, an elimination of standing starts, and other changes designed for better clarity and to avoid a couple loopholes that inadvertently popped up this year.

Starting with points, double points will be issued at just two races in 2015: the Indianapolis 500, and the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. This year, double points were issued at all three 500-mile races at Indianapolis, Pocono and Auto Club Speedway.

“We look at the new calendar and analyze how many cars would be in contention for the championship after certain events, and the best trend with multiple cars racing for the championship was weighting it for the final race and the Indy 500, which is a special race deserving of double points,” IndyCar’s president of competition and operations Derrick Walker said in a release.

Double points see a win increase from 50 to 100, second-place from 40 to 80, third from 35 to 70 and so on and so forth according to the IndyCar points structure breakdown.

Qualifying points will remain in place for the Indianapolis 500 qualifying, with at least nine additional points being awarded to the Indianapolis 500 Verizon P1 Award winner. A maximum of 42 qualifying points were possible for Indianapolis 500 qualifying in 2014, with 33 going to the fastest Saturday qualifier and nine to the fastest Sunday qualifier – polesitter Ed Carpenter achieved that feat by qualifying fastest both days this year.

A breakdown of the qualifying points for the Indianapolis 500 will be revealed at a later date.

Also of note is the elimination of standing starts for 2015. They had been in place at some, but not all road and street courses, over the last two seasons.

“Most of the tracks we run on, few meet the space criteria for our cars, which are bigger than most formula cars,” Walker said, “and there is some development needed with the launch. I wouldn’t say it’s out of the picture for the future. We know the fans enjoy it, and we love it, too.”

Other regulatory changes include the following:

  • Engine Manufacturer Championship points have also been revised to further reward reliability and competitiveness of the Chevrolet and Honda 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engines. The top three finishing positions by each manufacturer will score points. Previously, points were scored by the overall top five. Additional points are available to the manufacturers for an engine that meets the 2,500-mile threshold (10 points), the manufacturer that earns the Verizon P1 Award for the Indianapolis 500 (nine points), the manufacturer that earns the Verizon P1 Award in the 16 other races (one point) and the manufacturer that leads the most race laps (two points). Again in 2015, each full-season entry is allowed four fresh engines from the start of the season to the start of the following season with a total allotment of 10,000 miles. Twenty points will be deducted from a manufacturer’s total for an engine failing to complete its life cycle and an engine undergoing a non-minor repair that requires a component change.
  • Teams will be charged four days from their 14-day test allocation for Promoter Days (formerly known as Open Tests) at Barber Motorsports Park (March 16-17, for the introduction of Chevrolet and Honda street/road course aero kits), St. Petersburg (March 27), NOLA Motorsports Park (April 10), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval (May 3), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course (May 7) and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 31). The on-track Promoter Day at St. Petersburg, NOLA Motorsports Park, the Indianapolis road course and Mid-Ohio immediately precedes the race event weekends.
  • Qualification groups for road/street course races shall be determined by the practice session prior to Segment 1 of the three rounds of qualifying.
  • Qualifying will continue to set the pit lane assignment for the following event, but rule 7.4.1 addresses changing drivers between events, such as Carpenter and Mike Conway with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2014. When Conway, who drove 12 road/street course races in the No. 20 entry, yielded to Carpenter for an oval race (and vice versa), the No. 20 car was assigned the last pit stall from pit out. Under the new rule, the entrant will retain the pit assignment based upon qualifying position from the previous event, regardless of driver.
  • Each of the speed phases of the Rookie Orientation Program for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race have been increased 5 mph. In addition to car control, placement and a consistent driving pattern, the Rookie Orientation Program shall consist of three phases totaling 40 laps: Phase One of 10 laps at 205-210 mph, Phase Two of 15 laps at 210-215mph and Phase Three of 15 laps at 215+ mph. The laps do not have to be consecutive. The phases and corresponding speeds may be adjusted based on track/weather conditions.
  • Correspondingly, the Indianapolis 500 refresher test for drivers will consist of 30 total laps (the second and third phases of the ROP).

Today’s release did not include any updates about IndyCar race control directly, as it relates to a potential replacement of departed race director Beaux Barfield.

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”