A Different Kind of Double-Points Breakdown
After years of claiming to be the most diverse series in the world, INDYCAR finally took a small step towards making that an honest reality. Sure the series races on both twistie and oval circuits, but the points have been massively unbalanced from the moment we were purported to be a multi discipline series.
With the news that double points will be awarded to all three Triple Crown events, indycar took a small step in the direction of actual instead of perceived balance. In the interest of full disclosure, I have already mentioned being on board with increasing the points awarded for oval races. (Link here, I mention as much in the ‘Balance’ section. Article was posted on 10/3/2012)
For the 2014 season, there will be 18 total races, with six being contested on oval tracks. If straight points, without bonus points, from 2013 were to be used for the 2014 season, twistie events would award 600 points while ovals would award a measly 300 points.
There will be 2385 miles contested on oval tracks and 2090 miles contested on twisties in 2014. (Race length for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis has not been released yet, so I am assuming 200 miles for the event) If we use the non-doubled points of 2013, One oval point accounted for 8 miles while a single twistie point accounted for 3.5 miles. That is a huge point difference being awarded per mile simply because the oval races can be up to twice the length while still awarding the same points.
Move ahead to the 2014 points system and the spread is not as shocking. 2385 miles on ovals with 493 points awarded, including Indy qualifying bonus points, lowers the miles per point for a season of oval races to about 4.8. Still not even in the same range as the 3.5 miles per point available on twisties, but much closer than we had in 2013.
To lower the miles per point to 3.5 on the ovals, equal to how points are awarded on the twistie portion of the schedule, there would have to be about 680 points awarded across the six ovals! It would take awarding double points at all oval rounds, plus the Indy qualifying bonus, plus a handful more points sprinkled in to make each mile raced in the season weighted equally in points.
This was not as big of a deal as when we had more ovals on the calendar, but with only a third of the schedule turning left, something had to be done. We always talk about balance in every facet of indycar racing and steps have actually been taken to make that ideal a reality.
I admit, from the outside, awarding double points looks like a massive shift in importance to the ovals. But even with the increase in points awarded, the twistie events are worth more per mile in the championship. In the past as Will Power has shown, you could crash out on almost every oval and still make a run at the championship. In 2014, performance on the ovals will be even more important to a championship assault.
Awarding miles per point is absolutely an ancient idea in the motorsport world, but I see it as a more pure way to score a championship. Why should a 250 mile and 500 mile event pay the same points? I want to see every mile count equally. I want skill to be equally important across every mile. I don’t want a road course stud to be able to throw away the ovals and still be in for a chance at the championship.
For some historical perspective, for most of the history of American-Open Wheel Racing, points were awarded based on the mileage of the race. A fantastic breakdown of the various points systems through the years can be found here.
Some good news came on the racing in Brazil front recently following the cancelation of the Sao Paulo 2014 round of the championship. The series and local promoters have recently spoken of a deal, possibly signed already, that would place a round of the 2015 season in Brasilia, Brazil.
Cool. But what’s so special about Brazilia? Well, the series is looking at the Autodromo Nelson Piquet as the venue to host indycar’s return to South America. Note that there are two facilities in Brazil with this name; the facility in question is not the Jacarepaguá (Emerson Fittipaldi Speedway) circuit that held oval races from 1996 through 2000.
What we are talking about is the same facility that has been in talks with MotoGP organizers and nearly inked a deal for the 2014 season. Delays in track modifications (read: safety upgrades), ultimately denied its homologation for the 2014 season.
The official statement from INDYCAR describes the track as: “Autodromo Nelson Piquet, which has a 12-turn, 3.4-mile counter-clockwise layout for most of the races, would host the event.” The word that stands out to me is “most”. Why include that modifier in the release?
What may have been missed is the existence of a 5 turn “perimeter road course” at the facility. To me, it looks more like a flat, possibly skinny oval with a dogleg between what would be turn 2 and turn 4. Could INDYCAR be hinting at an oval-ish type event down there? Could the addition of IndyCar be what the track needs to secure final funding for modifications?
I have no idea about any of this, but it does make for an interesting trail of breadcrumbs. Here is a link to a crazy Corvette Zr1 Hennessey 750 doing hot laps around the 12 turn circuit. If you look carefully, you can see the perimeter circuit pass through is simply coned off and in the same condition as the rest of the track. The video is from October 2013 and the track does not look to be in very bad shape at all.
I would love to see the series attempt the wonky oval type road course thing. Car setup would definitely be different than a road course or oval package and could pose some interesting decisions for engineers to overcome. Of course this is idle banter until something official is released, but the possibility is very interesting.