INDYCAR adds electronic pit exit commit line, tweaks qualifying rules

Photo: IndyCar

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

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 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 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.”

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”