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Friday, December 13, 2002
Situations a team must prepare for
By Scott Goodyear
Special to ABC Sports Online
There are a number of circumstances that will affect the outcome of the 86th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. 11-time Indy 500 veteran Scott Goodyear explains what a driver and his team will be thinking at the various key moments in the race.
First turn/first lap
From a driver's perspective and what a team is hoping happens is that you complete the first lap without incident and get through the start because that is the most dangerous time of the race, along with restarts.
Usually in starts, drivers will have conversations with fellow drivers that whoever gets to the turn first, it's your turn. But in my experience, you can have an agreement, but once the driver puts on the helmet on, anything you discussed goes out the window.
Do you want to lead early?
It is nice to lead early -- if you can do that without extending yourself or your car. If you have to extend yourself to lead, you are better off to sit back and go through the segment where you speak with the team, get a good read on the car and make changes to make the car better. You are not going to win the race in the early portions or the middle portions. You have to work on the car to get it ready for the end.
First pit stop
In green conditions, this will be around lap 28-32 depending on fuel mileage. If you are not leading or in the lead group at this point, you want to be in touch and be able to see the leaders.
Unless of course, you come into a pit stop under yellow, which means with the restart rules, it doesn't matter.
Threat of rain or a light rain is falling
Drivers, for the most part, don't worry about rain because they have their spotters and the track does a great job on monitoring a light rain. They will go to yellow, if necessary, so you don't need to worry about the surface.
If you are over 100 laps and you are past halfway, you might consider getting up to the front or changing your pit strategy if you think rain is incoming. Then again, there is no guarantee that they are going to call the race and not have you restart. That is a hard one to play out.
For the most part, the drivers let the pit crew handle this matter.
When do you alter your pit strategy?
Before the event, you will have outlined what you think your pat strategy will be. But that can all go out the window based on yellow flags. You base your pit strategy on green flags all the way through. In my 10-11 years of racing, I only had one race that went green all the way through, and it was only a 200-miler.
It gets changed and assessed all the time. After your first pit stop, you have a target for the next one. The team continually reassess its next pit stop. The driver knows roughly how many laps he has left because he has a fuel counter on his dashboard that counts down the fuel. They refuel with 35 gallons, and it tells how much gas it has left.
What will affect a car's mileage?
A lot of things. Weather will have an affect on fuel mileage and also the pace of the race. If it is cold out, the engines breathe very well and they use fuel well. Meanwhile, the faster the pace, the more gas a driver will use. But if a driver is drafting, that means he is not on the throttle as much. In effect, he is using less gas and is getting an advantage of the cars in front of him to break the air, which we call a slipstream.
If there is a crash or a yellow caution, the advantage is you are conserving fuel and you are going around the track at a 60 mph pace. It is the same for everyone in that format.
When do lapped cars become an issue?
Lapped cars are always an issue whether you are a quarter into the race, halfway or at the end, generally because they are going slower. You just hope your timing is right to get past them.
In 1992, I was leading Little Al and he got caught in traffic. I ended up getting past him, and then I got caught in traffic. This time, he passed me. Then we had a yellow, and after the restart, I couldn't get past him. He said that if I had been in front of him, he wouldn't have gotten past me.
Where do you want to be with 25 laps to go?
At this point, you want to be in the lead pack and on the same lap as the leader, getting ready for the final shootout. Typically, the leader of this race with 10 laps to go is not the one who wins.