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The Big Question: Should IndyCar Do Green-White-Checker Finishes?

April 10, 2023 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
IndyCar Image Credit: IndyCar

The Big Question: Should IndyCar do “green-white-checker” finishes?

Since the end of the last IndyCar race at the Texas Motor Speedway there’s been an ongoing discussion among IndyCar fandom, and to a degree in professional American big time auto racing fandom in general, on whether or not races should be able to end under the caution flag. Put more succinctly, should IndyCar adopt the “green-white-checker” end of race procedure that NASCAR uses? For those of you unfamiliar with the “green-white-checker”/GWC in NASCAR, also known as “NASCAR overtime,” the basic procedure is this: if there’s a yellow caution flag displayed towards the end of a race NASCAR will make unlimited attempts to finish the final two laps under green flag conditions, even if by doing so the race exceeds the advertised race distance. However, if there’s a caution thrown after the race leader takes the white flag (meaning there’s one lap to go) the race will be considered complete. At the moment, there seems to be a growing consensus that IndyCar shouldn’t adopt the GWC procedure because it’s dangerous, gimmicky, and there’s nothing wrong with how IndyCar stages its races so there’s no reason to change anything.

I agree with the notion that IndyCar shouldn’t adopt the NASCAR GWC procedure as it’s way too complicated. However, I do not agree with the idea that it’s okay to end an auto race under the caution flag. In fact, I think ending any auto race under the caution flag is complete horseshit. There’s no real reason why IndyCar can’t make it so its races always end under green flag conditions.

But IndyCars are open wheel race cars that can travel at well over 220 miles per hour at superspeedway ovals like the Texas Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s way too dangerous to put the drivers in a situation where they can touch wheels while trying to go for the win.

Going well over 220 miles per hour is insanely fast, but IndyCars do that on superspeedway ovals throughout a race anyway (especially on restarts). And, yes, there’s always a chance that open wheel cars will touch wheels and have a bad accident but, again, that’s something that can happen at any point during a race. If we’re all worried that open wheel race cars can touch wheels if they get too close to one another it sounds like it’s just too dangerous in general to stage races for open wheel race cars. Is anyone in IndyCar fandom prepared to make that argument? Of course not because it’s lame.

There are hundreds of races held every year for open wheel race cars such as sprint cars, midgets, supermodifieds, and modifieds at short tracks where the drivers are capable of finishing races under green flag conditions without it always being one giant clusterfuck. Yes, these open wheel race cars tend to race on tracks of a ½ mile or shorter, but all of these cars are generally considered the fastest short track race cars in the world (for instance, supermodifieds can hit speeds close to 150 miles per hour on some ½ mile tracks), but there isn’t an epidemic of catastrophic finishes among them. So what is IndyCar’s excuse? Shouldn’t professional race drivers be able to handle finishing a race without wrecking into one another all of the time?

Yes, professional race drivers should be able to handle finishing a race without wrecking into one another all of the time. But for whatever reason there’s this mentality among the drivers and the teams that the only thing that matters is winning, that it’s okay to win at all costs, and that if you have to wreck someone to win that’s okay. You can see this in IndyCar and throughout NASCAR’s top three touring series (Craftsman Truck Series, the Xfinity Series, and the Cup Series). IndyCar and NASCAR officials also seem to encourage this behavior by either saying explicitly they’re okay with it (the old “boys have at it” thing) or not saying anything about it at all. All of that shit should just stop.

Race officials and the sanctioning bodies should make it very clear that rough driving will not be tolerated. Deliberate contact will not be tolerated. If there’s any rough driving or deliberate contact drivers should be black flagged, disqualified, and suspended while team owners should be fined heavily for repeated violations. Once the drivers and teams and owners figure out that race officials are serious about following the rules and there will be consequences for not following the rules things will change for the better.

And, no, this scheme will not put an end to “close” racing. There’s nothing wrong with close racing. But deliberately wrecking someone in order to get by them? Slamming into the rear of the leader on the final lap so you can win? None of that shit should be tolerated by anyone. The “chrome horn” should be disallowed and frowned upon.

But what about the “purity of sport?” Wouldn’t a race that’s scheduled to be 200 laps not be valid if it ends up going 210 laps so it can finish under green flag conditions?

The whole “purity of sport” argument has never been persuasive because who said you always have to count caution laps as part of the race distance? Short tracks don’t always do it. Are short track races that don’t count caution laps invalid? Are they all engaged in a massive gimmick? No, they’re not. What’s to stop IndyCar from mandating that the last 10 laps of a race must be run under green flag conditions? Nothing.

But wouldn’t that ruin race strategy and make things too complicated? What if cars run out of fuel if it takes “60 laps” to run the final 10? If everyone knows what the rules are ahead of time the teams will be able to plan out for the possibility that they will have to run “extra laps” in the event there are a ton of cautions at the end. And if everyone knows the rules ahead of time there should be no confusion about what’s happening. IndyCar can do all of this very easily. IndyCar just chooses not to.

Short tracks and regional sanctioning bodies, often run by volunteers and non-professionals, seem to be able to do all of these things without too many issues. So what’s IndyCar’s excuse? What’s NASCAR’s excuse?

It’s all just so much nonsense. There’s no real reason IndyCar can’t end all of its races under green flag conditions beyond the unwillingness to make it happen. There’s no reason NASCAR can’t finish races under green flag conditions without two pages of rules. This isn’t that complicated.

The last 10 laps of a race should be run under green flag conditions. Rough driving will not be tolerated. If you break the rules you will be black flagged/disqualified/fined/suspended. Why is this so hard to do?


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Well, I think that’ll be about it for now. Don’t forget to sign up with disqus if you want to comment on this article and any other 411 article. You know you want to, so just go do it.

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article topics :

Indycar, Bryan Kristopowitz