“Insane” lapped-car rule has an “easy fix”, says Power

Will Power, winner of today’s IndyCar race on the IMS road course, has again called for the series to end the rule which allows cars that are about to be lapped to fight the leaders.

The Team Penske-Chevrolet driver was leading Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport-Honda) and Romain Grosjean (Dale Coyne Racing with RWR), when he caught James Hinchcliffe (Andretti) in the third of four stints.

Power saw his advantage slashed from nine seconds to less than half that, as Hinchcliffe used his push-to-pass boost to stay ahead. With Power trying to preserve his P2P in case of late-race restarts, he grew increasingly angry, as he dropped back to stay out of Hinchcliffe’s dirty air.

A driver who follows another car closely finds his car moving around through long duration corners, rapidly accelerating tire wear.

Even Herta appeared to sympathize with Power’s quandary, pointing out: “If you're pretty similar on pace, it would be very difficult to pass. You kind of have to sit there and wait for a mistake, and on used reds you have to do 25 laps, it's easy to overcook them, and if you're battling and trying to stay under a second behind somebody you can really cook the tires and destroy them.”

A driver typically wants to stay on the lead lap in case of caution periods, whereby the pace car picks up the leader, and anyone ahead of the leader gets waved around to the back of the field, thereby regaining almost a complete lap. IndyCar thus allows backmarkers to try and stay ahead.

Power said there was a simple solution to the problem and in the post-race press conference called on the IndyCar president to make the change.

“Back markers certainly make it tough in this series, and it's a simple fix,” said the 2014 champion who today reached the 40-win mark. “You simply give those guys their lap back when it goes yellow and they won't fight you. You don't even have to mandate a blue. Jay? Jay Frye? Is he here?”

He went on to explain: “The way I caught [Hinchcliffe], I thought we could probably get past him no problem. When I got to him and I saw he was using Push-to-Pass to keep me behind. It's just insane that we have this in IndyCar. Even the second-placed guy doesn't like it, and the third-place guy because if I get past him then they've got to work to get past him. It just ruins races.

“I don't even think the guys that are trying to stay on the lead lap like it because they don't want to be a pain in the ass. They would like to get out of the way.

“And it's such a simple fix. Just bloody give them their lap back if it goes yellow! Give anyone who's a lap down their lap back.

“It just blows my mind that we are such a competitive series, you have nine different winners already, and no one consistently gets on pole, it's a different polesitter every week, and yet you've got to come around and fight someone who's the last guy. I mean, there's no series in the world that does that.

“And we've asked for this. They've got to do something. They need to change it. They should change it. It pisses me off, man. Like just crazy that you're racing someone who's a lap down, or going a lap down.

“It's insane. [The series is] too competitive to do that. Everyone works too hard, spends way too much money to be racing some guy that's a lap down who’s having a bad day.”

Power chuckled as he recalled how his frustration mounted, when he ducked into the pits for the final time… and Hinchcliffe’s team also pitted its driver.

Despite the #12 Penske crew’s best efforts, Power fumbled for gears and thus still emerged behind the Canadian. It wasn’t until the first yellow-flag period, that Power got a clear track ahead as Hinchcliffe was duly waved to the back of the field.

“It was in second gear. I stalled and then I re-clutched and let go and fortunately it started… Yeah, when he was pitting, that's when I'm like, ‘We are still going to be behind this dude.’ I was kind of relieved when the yellow came, like, ‘Thank God he's gone!’

“But yeah, I don't reckon he wants to do that. I don't reckon he likes to do it. It's just the rule that he can fight to stay on the lead lap. It's just a bad rule.”

Asked if he thought Hinchcliffe’s efforts to stay ahead were a deliberate ploy to back Power up to Herta, Power wasn’t convinced. However, he did say that since he was embroiled in a battle with two Hondas for the win, Chevrolet might have asked a Chevy backmarker to make way for him.

“Obviously Andretti wouldn't be telling him to get out of the way. I think if it was a Chevy engine [in the backmarker’s car], someone at Chevy probably would [ask].

“Hinch was just fast enough for me not to get close enough to kind of have a run. He'd use Push-to-Pass. You can't blame the driver. It's the team that would be telling him stay on the lead lap in case it goes yellow – which it did. It's just a really bad rule.

“I wish I could come on the radio and say, ‘Look, if Hinch lets me go, I will let him go when it goes yellow; he can have that position back!’ That's literally what you'd be doing… You’d have a gentlemen's agreement amongst drivers – 'Hey, if the leader comes up on you, you let him go; you're getting your lap back anyway.' And second place and third place.”

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