The 2013 Indy 500 featured everything a race fan could want—except for the fact it finished under yellow. This race would have been packed with even more drama had there been a rule in place for a green-white-checkered finish like the one employed in NASCAR.
Tony Kanaan was the beneficiary of the caution, as the 38-year-old made a pass on the final restart. Not long after, defending race champion Dario Franchitti suffered a crash to bring out the yellow.
This set up for what amounted to be two casual victory laps for the wildly popular Kanaan as the race finished under caution. After a few near-misses, this was Kanaan's first celebratory gulp of milk on the famed raceway.
It was a thrilling race that featured a record number of lead changes, with many of them coming in the final laps. It highlighted just how exciting this event can be.
Now, I certainly don't mean to cheapen Kanaan's win. He drove a great race, and he worked his strategy to perfection under the current rules of the race.
However, that doesn't mean the rules couldn't use a tweak.
The green-white-checkered would allow for a race to be restarted for two final laps after a caution that would have otherwise seen the race end. NASCAR currently allows for three restarts before allowing a race to finish under caution.
NASCAR's Clint Bowyer is intimately familiar with this rule, and after last year's race also finished under caution, he had this to tweet:
Best Indy 500 that I've ever watched. Congrats to Dario. Glad Sato went for it...Kinda wish they had a GWC rule though!— Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) May 27, 2012
I have to imagine he was even more convinced of this after yesterday's race.
The IRL could tweak the rule to whatever suits them best, and they could even allow for racers to get a splash of fuel to eliminate concerns of fuel limitations changing the integrity of the race.
I'm not going to hold my breath for this rule change in the IRL—at least not at Indy. This is a race steeped in tradition, and there would be great reluctance to add a rule that could possibly make the iconic race last more than 500 miles.
The IRL discussed adding a green-white-checkered finish at the end of last season. Obviously, it was not implemented, and even if it had been, the tradition-rich Indy 500 likely would have remained unchanged.
As would the road races, which is fine. Road races aren't likely to set up the kind of multiple passes that oval-track racing does.
Even Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second on Sunday and stood the most to gain had there been a green-white-checkered finish, isn't in favor of it.
SpeedFreaks' Crash Gladys passed along this quote from Hunter-Reay:
.@ryanhunterreay on GWC "This is Indy. Tradition is tradition. We don't produce results w GWC. Gimmick. Bt if fans wnt us back out, I'll go"— Crash Gladys (@CrashGladys) May 26, 2013
However, the IRL needs to be less hesitant to stick to tradition if something will improve the entertainment of its highlight race.
IndyCar has been fighting a losing battle to stay relevant. That fact is discussed eloquently by SI.com's Lars Anderson here, as well as why Kanaan is so popular among drivers and fans.
In other words, this is a governing body that needs to find ways to captivate audiences. The green-white-checkered would do that.
I couldn't agree more with USA Today's Jeff Gluck:
Frustrating as a viewer to think about the finish that might have been at Indy 500. Need a GWC rule. It’s a gimmick, yeah, but for the fans!— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) May 26, 2013
In the case of last Sunday, this would have allowed for another build-up towards a thrilling finish and more breathtaking passes as these skilled drivers battled for the win. Indy cars now draft so well that passes like the ones we saw on Sunday can be commonplace. And who doesn't want to see more passes for the lead in a race?
However, the detractors have ample ammunition.
Should the Indy 500 employ a green-white-checkered?
Besides tradition, one of the popular points of contention against this rule change is safety. Restarts are a dangerous time in racing, and the green-white-checkered is prime time for extra wrecks.
However, those restarts aren't going to be any different than the one that saw Kanaan take the lead with just three laps to go.
There was a massive jockeying for position, as these drivers knew there was a strong chance another caution would be imminent. Having a green-white-checkered in place would reduce the urgency on a restart like the final one on Sunday.
So, the rule change would essentially shift this dangerous setting back a few laps.
Also, while there are those that deride this as gimmick, my response is...yeah, so?
This is a gimmick that would improve the quality and entertainment value of the race. It's not like we're talking about drivers receiving a head start based on looks. This wouldn't change the nature of the competition; it simply helps ensure a dynamic finish.
And that's not a gimmick. That's just good business.