Sunday, May 30, 2010
Updated: May 31, 12:16 PM ET
Should the Indy 500 end under caution?
By Terry Blount
INDIANAPOLIS -- No green-white-checkered finish in the Indy 500. No extra laps.
That's the way it is in IndyCar Series racing. No second or third chances in overtime as NASCAR uses.
Does it ruin the show? You tell me.
Dario Franchitti won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday under caution in regulation, 200 laps.
But the ending didn't lack drama. Franchitti and his Target Ganassi Racing crew didn't know if he could make it back to the finish line. He coasted across for his second Indy 500 win.
In this case, no GWC finish was coming even if it was under NASCAR rules. Franchitti already had taken the white flag when the accident happened to bring out the yellow flag. If the leader already has started the final lap before the caution waves, the field is frozen and the race is over.
But it does bring up an interesting question: Should a race as important as the Indy 500 end under caution if it can be avoided?
Second-place finisher Dan Wheldon probably would have loved a chance to pass Franchitti in overtime. Wheldon thought he had enough fuel for a few more laps.
"I took it upon myself to save fuel early in that stint," Wheldon said. "I was lifting in the middle of every corner. Everyone was slowing down, but it allowed me to maintain my pace up until the end.
"The only thing I thought was, 'I'm going to catch these guys.' I could see Dario struggling. I could tell he was hanging on."
Wheldon needed another lap or two. As it turned out, the man who dominated the race -- Franchitti led 155 of 200 laps -- won the race. That probably wouldn't have happened under a GWC overtime finish.
NASCAR added GWC overtime to the Sprint Cup Series in 2004. The league altered the rule this season to include a maximum of three GWCs if needed.
Since 1940, 13 Indy 500s have ended under caution, but six of those were halted because of rain. The 2002 yellow-flag finish was a controversial ending that many fans debate to this day.
Helio Castroneves was declared the winner, but some people still believe Paul Tracy was ahead by inches when the caution lights came on.
|Do you think Dario Franchitti and his wife, Ashley Judd, minded that Sunday's Indianapolis 500 ended under caution?|
Sunday's race was a double whammy that fans often complain about since it also was decided on fuel mileage.
"I don't understand why you guys don't do a better job of explaining that to the fans," Chip Ganassi said after his driver won the race. "Everybody is like, 'We don't like fuel races.' There's no way to stop fuel races no matter what you do.
"There's always going to be a race where there's a yellow right before the exact amount of laps that you need to get full to finish. Everybody keeps trying to put a switch in, take the switch out, have push-to-pass, all this stuff. It doesn't mean anything.
"There's always going to be a fuel race. I'm not saying every race is going to be a fuel race, but there's always that incident where guys are saving fuel to get to the finish. It's just that simple."
After finishing his rant, Ganassi said there is a way to solve the problem.
"The only way you could legislate that is have everybody stop with 10 laps to go," he said. "Just fill up and say fuel has nothing to do with it so the first part of the race means nothing."
Of course, Ganassi knows that isn't going to happen. And green-white-checkered finishes aren't coming to the Indy 500.
Does it ruin the show? You tell me.
Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He is the author of "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks." He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There's always going to be a fuel race. I'm not saying every race is going to be a fuel race, but there's always that incident where guys are saving fuel to get to the finish. It's just that simple.
-- Chip Ganassi