The IZOD IndyCar Series is tweaking some of the procedures relating to qualifying and restarts at certain tracks in 2012, the newly appointed race director Beaux Barfield has announced.
Instead of single-car speed test laps at Iowa Speedway, qualification will instead take the form of three 'heats' of 30 laps each to determine the starting places of all the cars.
The groups for the three heats will be set according to times from the practice session held earlier on the day: the cars in the top ten in practice will race for the top ten grid positions, while the remaining cars will be split into two groups based on whether they had an even- or odd-position in the practice session. The two groups will then compete in heats for grid positions 11, 13, ... and 12, 14, ... accordingly.
It's an attempt to introduce some of the excitement from the successful revamping of road course qualifying procedures, which sees car progress through two rounds of qualifying before finally fighting it out for the front three rows on the grid in the Firestone Fast Six.
"We looked at heat races as something that could add excitement to our races and just improve the product," said Barfield. "The build-up we presently have for the Firestone Fast Six has that excitement and we wanted to do something similar for the oval events, he said, adding that it was "going back to the heritage of short-track racing," Barfield said that "This is the first of a few concepts we're considering."
Qualifying at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile will continue to use the existing system of averaging the speed of a car over two solo laps of the oval.
Barfield also confirmed that the controversial double-file restarts will stay for the majority of races - but offered an olive branch to teams and drivers by declaring that the high-speed ovals on the calendar will revert back to single file restarts.
That means the races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway will all be single-file restarts, a move that will please drivers who complained last year that trying to go two-wide on those tracks was simply too dangerous.
Barfield agreed with them, at least for these circuits: "They were right at sort of a draft and pan-out point in the vicinity of where the pit wall started," he said of the situation at Indianapolis. "If they got forced over there, that's dangerous."