INDYCAR adds electronic pit exit commit line, tweaks qualifying rules

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Following a couple moments of confusion, perhaps consternation, at last week’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach for the Verizon IndyCar Series, INDYCAR has released a few rules and procedural updates on Thursday.

Hitting the controversial pit exit situation first in the wake of Simon Pagenaud only being issued an Official Warning leaving pit exit last week (among others who were also dinged; Carlos Munoz received a Warning as well), INDYCAR has added an electronic pit exit commit line, to be implemented for this weekend.

Per INDYCAR: “An electronic pit exit commit line has been embedded in the track surface. The transponder in each Verizon IndyCar Series car must cross the embedded line to determine a legal pit exit. This procedure will be in use this weekend at Barber and at other series tracks where conditions permit.”

“The addition of the electronic pit exit commit line uses technology to improve enforcement of the lane usage rule and creates a system to determine if an infraction has occurred. The race stewards’ penalty guidelines remain unchanged,” INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye said in a release.

There were also a couple tweaks made to qualifying, after timing & scoring issues occurred and then an extra lap occurred in the Firestone Fast Six beyond the minimum five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time.

Segment 3 of qualifying (Firestone Fast Six) has now been extended to a minimum of six minutes of guaranteed green-flag time, up one minute from five, with the timing clock stopping on a red flag. This is Rule 8.3.4.6.

Additionally, if a red flag occurs near the end of the session and the remaining time is not enough for entrants to complete a timed lap, all entrants will be given an opportunity to complete one timed lap when green-flag conditions return.

In order to receive the one guaranteed lap, cars must leave pit lane within 30 seconds of the green being called. Previously, the rule called for Segment 3 to run for 10 minutes, with five minutes of guaranteed green-flag time.

Rule 8.3.5.1 has been added to confirm that any car that causes a red flag in Segment 3 of qualifying will be barred from participating in the remainder of the session. Will Power was stopped last week after causing a red, although no provision was in the rulebook at the time for that to occur.

Backup timing and scoring data decoders have been placed at both the traditional start/finish line and the timing line used for qualifying at Turn 14. This procedure will be in use this weekend at Barber and at other series tracks as conditions permit.

Entries can also receive an extra set of primary tires from Firestone (Rule 15.2.1.1) for the weekend, provided they complete five laps on one set of tires (including “in” and “out” laps) within the first 20 minutes of green-flag conditions during the first on-track session of an event weekend at a road or street course, including promoter test days. Previously, the time limit to complete the five laps was 15 minutes.

“The change in Segment 3 of road/street course qualifying was made to simplify the process, create a sense of urgency to have cars on track and give the fans a better show. We want to avoid situations where the Firestone Fast Six concludes on a red flag, so we’ve put in place the opportunity for each car to post one timed lap at the end of the session,” Frye added.

“Adding backup data decoders at the alternate start/finish lines puts a system of redundancy in place to assure accurate and quick results.

“The time allowed for teams to earn the additional set of Firestone primary tires has been expanded by five minutes and excludes red-flag conditions in the first on-track session.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”