IRL's New Changes Are Just Right

Mark RudiCorrespondent IAugust 2, 2009

SPARTA, KY - AUGUST 01:  Ryan Briscoe, driver of the #6 Team Penske Dallara Honda, celebrates after crossing the finish line after winning ahead of Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Vision Racing Dallara Honda, during the IRL IndyCar Series Meijer Indy 300 on August 1, 2009 at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Kentucky.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The fans wanted better side-by-side action and the fans got it in Saturday night's Meijer Indy 300 at Kentucky.

The high speed passing that has been absent from the oval racing in the IndyCar Series was finally present on Saturday night and it looks like the Indy Racing League has fixed its problem of lack of passing.

“Up until now, you could get within about two or three car lengths of someone and your car would get loose and you would have to get out of the throttle,” Ryan Briscoe said to Racer Magazine. “Now, you can run down under people and get aggressive. That’s what made the racing so good.

The aero changes, the tires, the push-to-pass—I don’t think you can put your finger on one thing that made it better. It’s always going to be a combination of things.”

The IndyCar Series is known for very close racing on the ovals and very close finishes in its history. Saturday night was no different as Briscoe denied Ed Carpenter his first career win by only 0.0162 of a second and was the closet finish in Kentucky Speedway's history.

“Nobody knew if the changes were going to work, but they did,” Carpenter said to Racer. “Tonight it did. I hope the fans enjoyed it, because we’ve had some races this year that weren’t so good.”

Some if the changes the IRL made were aerodynamic changes to the car, with changes to the rear wing and sidebars. Also, a new push-to-pass feature was added to help drivers complete a pass with extra horsepower for 15 seconds. 

At the IndyCar's earlier 1.5 mile races at Kansas at Texas, packs of cars were not present, nor was the passing or lead changes. Kansas had a total of 11 lead changes and only eight at Texas.

The final straw was a debacle of no passing at Richmond on June 27, which led the changes to help passing. The series also knows to attract new fans, good racing and lots of passing will help grow IndyCar's fan base. The lack of passing may have led to Richmond being dropped from the 2010 schedule.

Saturday's race had a total of 21 lead changes between seven drivers with only one caution and a race average of 200.893 mph, which is the second-fastest in IndyCar history. The fastest was a 207.151 mph average at California Speedway on Sept. 21, 2003. 

The IndyCar Series will return to road course racing for the two races at Mid-Ohio and Infineon Raceway, but many are excited for the final stretch with three 1.5 mile tracks to finish the season.

The Series ends the season with Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 29), which has is know for good passing and owns the two closest finishes in IRL history, Twing Ring Motegi (Sept. 19), and the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 10).