The IZOD IndyCar Series has revealed more plans for the forthcoming 2013 season, detailing race start times and US TV coverage arrangements as well as changes to the length of four races to reduce the chance of fuel conservation strategies, and a new format for qualifying heats at Iowa.
The races which see their lengths tweaked for 2013 are the season opener in St. Petersburg, which increases by ten laps to 110 (198 miles) in total; Long Beach, which is reduced by five laps to 80 (157.4 miles); Milwaukee, which goes up by 25 laps to 250 (250 miles); and Mid-Ohio, up five laps to 90 (203 miles) in 2013.
"Changing the distances at these races will hopefully eliminate the strategy of saving fuel from the drop of the green flag," explained InyCar's race director Beaux Barfield. "That will enable our teams and drivers to race hard for the full distance and improve the event's entertainment value for the fans."
Barfield also announced a new format for qualifying heats for the Iowa Speedway race in June, building on the introduction of three heat races in 2012. Last season the drivers were placed into one of the three heats according to their combined practice times, with Race 3 alone determining the line-up of the front four rows of the grid.
This season, the three 50-lap heats will be retained but will now include transfers for the top two cars in each of Heat Race 1 and Heat Race 2 to go into a top ten pole shoot-out in Heat Race 3. The initial line-up of who lines up in which heat race will be decided by a single-car, single-lap qualification lap on the 0.875-mile, variably-banked oval.
“We wanted to change things up a little with our oval qualifying format so we introduced heat races in 2012,” explained Barfield. “We did it in a way that was relatively conservative in terms of the onus that was put on teams by having to run in one heat race. Based on positive fan response and feedback, we decided to take it one step further to improve the show and put some value in it for the competitors with points.”
Heat Race 1 will consist of the cars who finish the single-lap qualifying in an even position from eighth downwards; Heat Race 2 will consist of those in odd-numbered positions from seventh downwards; and Heat Race 3 will be made up of the top six from single-lap qualifying together with the top two cars transferring from the previous heats.
“Heat races at shorter tracks such as Iowa Speedway recall the heritage of oval track racing,” Barfield added.
In addition to setting qualifying, the new system will also reward the top 12 on the grid with championship points with nine points going to the pole winner and then decreasing by one point until they level out at one point for the final cars in the top dozen.
Organisers hope that the ongoing changes to the qualifying system will boost attendance at Iowa Speedway over the race weekend, with Iowa Speedway CEO Doug Fritz saying that he hoped the revised format "will create some of the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat racing of the weekend."