The handing out of starting grid penalties because of unscheduled engine penalties has been one of the more controversial and unpopular new innovations in the IZOD IndyCar
Series in 2012, and the issue has reached new heights with confirmation that no fewer than 14 of the 26 drivers have already been served with ten-place grid drops for tomorrow night's race.
The good news is that the outbreak of engine changes will not affect the championship battle between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power, as both men are among the drivers penalised for requiring new Chevrolet engines and therefore neither gains any advantage over the other as a result of the grid demotion.
Hunter-Reay needs a new engine after damaging his previous unit in a testing cash at the Auto Club Speedway at Fontana, California earlier this week.
Scott Dixon is also among those getting a grid penalty after taking a seventh Honda engine for this weekend. Dixon is currently in third place in the 2012 championship, but has already been mathematically ruled out of any chance of the title ahead of this week's season finale, the MAVTV 500.
Wade Cunningham is another driver who will start with a grid penalty despite this being his first outing since Indianapolis
in May, as the #14 AJ Foyt Racing car previously driven by Mike Conway will be fitting its seventh Honda engine of the season for tomorrow night's race.
Drivers get ten-place grid penalties if they have to use a new engine before the old unit reaches the 1850-mile lifespan, or if the team has already used more than the allowed five engines over the course of the season.
In the case of the 14 penalties announced so far, all have or will be going over the permitted five units with their engine changes this week. Simona de Silvestro will be on her ninth engine this weekend, after HVM Racing decided that incurring weekly penalties was little setback given its regular back row qualifying performance, and that they could use the strategy to cycle through rapid incremental upgrades in the Lotus engine.
The 11 drivers who have not been penalised for engine changes so far are Ryan Briscoe, JR Hildebrand, EJ Viso, Rubens Barrichello, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, James Jakes, Ed Carpenter, Oriol Servia, Marco Andretti and Katherine Legge.
Assuming that nothing happens between now and the race, these 11 will almost certainly make up the front five and a half rows on the grid for the season finale on Saturday evening. The best that the penalised drivers can hope for is 12th place, and that's only if they manage to claim pole position in qualifying due to be held late on Friday.
However, overtaking is no where near as big a problem in an oval race - especially a marathon 500-mile event like this weekend's finale - and so the penalties will not have the impact that they would on a street or road course event and should be have relatively minor impact on the final results.
Even so, it's not an ideal situation for the series to present to fans and the media going into the high profile championship-deciding race, and this latest slew of penalties could be the final straw in prompting a re-think of how engine penalties are handled in the 2013 season.Engine status#2 Ryan Briscoe Penske
- On Engine 5#3 Helio Castroneves Penske
- Will fit Engine 6 *#4 JR Hildebrand Panther Racing
- On Engine 5#5 E.J. Viso KV Racing Technology
- On Engine 5#6 Katherine Legge Dragon Racing
- On Engine 5#8 Rubens Barrichello KV Racing
- On Engine 5#9 Scott Dixon Ganassi
- Will fit Engine 7 *#10 Dario Franchitti Ganassi
- On Engine 5#11 Tony Kanaan KV Racing w/SH
- On Engine 5#12 Will Power Penske
- Will Fit Engine 6 *#14 Wade Cunningham AJ Foyt Racing
- Will fit Engine 7 *#15 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
- Will fit Engine 9 *#18 Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing
- Will fit Engine 6 *#19 James Jakes Dale Coyne Racing
- On Engine 5#20 Ed Carpenter Ed Carpenter Racing
- On Engine 5#22 Oriol Servia Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold
- On Engine 5#26 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport
- On Engine 5#27 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport
- Will fit Engine 6 *#28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
- Will fit Engine 6 *#38 Graham Rahal Ganassi
- Will fit Engine 6 *#67 Josef Newgarden Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
- Will fit Engine 7 *#77 Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports
- Will fit Engine 6 *#78 Simona de Silvestro Lotus-HVM Racing
- Will fit Engine 9 *#83 Charlie Kimball Ganassi
- Will fit Engine 8 *#98 Alex Tagliani Bryan Herta Autosport
- Will fit Engine 6 ** denotes incurring 10 place starting grid penalty