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Tradition would say no green-white-checkered should occur for Indy 500

May 27, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT

Indianapolis 500 Champions Portrait Session Getty Images

At times, race fans and observers can be incapable of living in the moment and/or appreciating what they’ve just seen. A case in point: in the immediate aftermath of an outcome like yesterday’s finish at the Indianapolis 500, there were enough tweets and comments on social media and message boards that “the finish sucked because there was no green-white-checkered!”

And as such, the discussion over whether this race should be guaranteed an attempt at a green-flag finish has ensued.

Facts are facts, and yes, the unfortunate fact here is that this was the fourth consecutive Indianapolis 500 that finished under yellow. There is visceral opinion on both sides of the argument about whether this is a good thing, that the race went to its scheduled, unaltered distance of 200 laps, 500 miles, or a bad thing, that it ended under yellow and should have been extended.

Firstly, no rule in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook allows for a green-white-checkered. A quick clean done after Graham Rahal’s crash ensured this year’s 500 had a chance to end green with a lap 198 restart.

Secondly, frankly, for the Indianapolis 500 at least, a green-white-checkered adoption would be an unnecessary boondoggle that the race doesn’t need.

IndyCar can choose to do whatever it wants in terms of altering its season-long product to gain public consciousness beyond the “Indiana bubble” to which it largely resides.

But a race as built on tradition, that embraces tradition, and that almost places tradition ahead of the current year’s product, shouldn’t be altering its most sacred aspect – 500 means 500 – for the sake of pleasing a loud and vocal minority. Changing the race distance from anything other than 500 miles would be as big a slap to tradition as has ever occurred in this race’s 97-year history.

Safety risks could enter the equation as well, with a possible GWC outcome meaning a greater chance of more contact caused by drivers going for it even more than normal in a short amount of time, with open-cockpit cars and exposed wheels. There’s no counting how many extra accidents have occurred after the first GWC attempt in NASCAR, since its implementation.

The eventual last restart mattered, race winner Tony Kanaan admitted, because he knew the potential for another accident almost immediately after the race restarted on lap 198. He knew he had to go for it at that point. The sense of urgency was there, and the race fans benefited as a result knowing that a lead change after the restart was imminent.

Perhaps the most popular 500-mile race win before Kanaan’s, the late Dale Earnhardt’s at the 1998 Daytona 500, also ended under yellow. Earnhardt held off Bobby Labonte in a final run to the line before taking the yellow flag and lapping the final circuits under caution. The win wasn’t “devalued” because it came under yellow; nor, in this author’s opinion, were the wins by Dario Franchitti (2010 and 2012) and the late Dan Wheldon (2011) the last three years in Indy.

The higher frequency of races ending under yellow made a green-white-checkered option for other races a discussion point for IndyCar last year, but really, it owed to abnormalities and higher percentages – this was a topic I wrote about in a piece last year, for RACER magazine.

This Monday afternoon, there are opposing viewpoints on the topic from USA Today’s Jeff Gluck (pro-GWC) and ESPN’s Ed Hinton (anti-GWC, at least for this race). The IndyCar drivers themselves, though, said tradition should trump show in terms of a GWC outcome at Indy.

“I think we should consider that, but I’m all about the tradition in this place,” said Kanaan. “That was never done here. And I’m not saying that because I won under yellow, because I lost plenty of them under yellow, as well.”

Kanaan did admit that “you want to see a finish under green” and said he’d need further thinking about the topic, but was still leaning more against it. Defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, meanwhile, was a little more definitive when asked about it on Sunday.

“This is Indy, there’s a certain way things are done,” said Hunter-Reay, who finished third. “If tradition is tradition, we don’t materialize results, we don’t try to produce results out of green-white-checkereds. It can be a bit gimmicky.”

  1. wallio - May 27, 2013 at 3:29 PM

    Dear God no. The only people who wants this are NASCAR fans and the casuals who watch 2-3 races a year. Real race fans know better. Remember when Indy tried to install the Lucky Dog? They put it to a vote on their website and over 85% said no. This would suffer a similar fate. Double file restarts are bad enough. Focus on useful changes, like the damn aero kits we were promised 3 years ago. Leave Indy alone.

    • imwhitewolf - May 29, 2013 at 12:05 AM

      Secondly, frankly, for the Indianapolis 500 at least, a green-white-checkered adoption would be an unnecessary boondoggle that the race doesn’t need.

      What a stupid statement this is. For such an exciting race, which isn’t the norm at Indy, to finish under a yellow flag is ludicrious. I have followed this race since the early 60s, been to more than a few and many qualification days. It’s finishes like this that have contributed to the decline of open wheel racing in this country. One just needs to look at the above post to understand why.

  2. drylake - May 27, 2013 at 4:01 PM

    NASCAR needs GWC because their races otherwise suck and their low attention span, instant gratification fanbase need it to get their money’s worth. We are not NASCAR and we don’t need to mimick them. Charlotte was an embarassment yesterday. Would a photo finish have drawn more crowd reaction than the three yellow “victory laps” TK was able to enjoy yesterday? When the yellow came out, the crowd instantly knew what that meant and the roar was defeaning for ten minutes. Leave it be.

  3. thumper001 - May 27, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Race day baby!

    Leave it be.

    When this goes, it will be the last of its breed. So it’s better to hang on to it for as long as we can, because when its gone, nothing can replace it. Think of the long line of incredible drivers and owners who have graced the brickyard for the month of May. Ray Harroun (vintage era), Wilbur Shaw (saved the race and the track by arranging the sale from Eddie Rickenbacher to Tony Hulman. Captain Eddie was set to demolish the track during WWII. Wilbur also created the tagline; “the greatest spectacle in racing”) (Rickenbacher era. Thank the stars for Clabber Girl!), AJ (Hulman era), Parnelli, Dan Gurney, the Unser Brothers, Jimmy Clark/Graham Hill/Jackie Stewart (the European invasion), Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock, Rick Mears, Al Unser, Jr. (George era), and now all this great open wheel racing with the new folks from the modern era. So many great drivers, and way too many to mention here…

    Who could forget the year (1967) Parnelli ran the STP Turbine (owned by Andy Granatelli) and couldn’t be beaten on Sunday? And then the race was pushed over to Monday for the finish due to rain, where he did run out of steam (broken $6 part in the gearbox) with less than 3 laps to go, and A.J. Foyt picked up the win (his 3rd)? Or the dominance Offenhauser engines once had over the field from the late 1940s through the mid 1960s….or the year (1973) a young hard charger named Swede Savage bought it (broken wing) in what many still claim is the worst single car racing accident ever witnessed (the 64 Eddie Sachs/Dave McDonald crash was multi-car)? Or AJ’s 4th. Al Unser’s 4th. Rick Mears’ 1st-4th. Unser, Jr’s 1st-2nd…or another in a long line of freak events taking out Mario yet again (the pit lane penalty Bobby Unser used in 1981 to gain his 3rd, after the race, with bad karma biting Mario once again, this time after winning it on the track).

    It’s a veritable Hall of Fame, and if you walk pit row on any other day, sometimes you can still see them all, fighting for a second or two, or any edge, to get back in the race, faces smeared in grease, sweat running down their cheeks, frantically signalling for their crews to get it done…

    Race day at the brickyard…there is nothing else like it.

  4. gimperj2013 - May 27, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    BOOOOOO!!!! HISSSSSS!!!! An extreeeeemely disappointing finish to a “Classic” race. Kanann did not win the Indy 500, he stole it! The first 495 miles were outstanding, the last 5 miles were terrible. It is a shame, a sham such a great race is not allowed to actually FINISH under GREEN! The rules must be changed to allow the race to actually finish.

    Several drivers worked extremely hard to get into a position to make a mad dash to the finish thus creating an outstanding FINISH to a GREAT race. To end such a classic, well fought 495 mile race “Under Yellow” is a travesty.

    • Nathan Gruenholz - May 27, 2013 at 6:44 PM

      Let’s take away Dale’s 1998 Daytona 500 win as well.

    • moezilla - May 27, 2013 at 6:54 PM

      Did you “actually” watch the race? Because I did and I watched the race “actually” finish. 500 miles as advertised. That’s why it’s called the Indy 500, not the Indy 503…er, maybe the 506 mile race. Respect the distance of the race.

    • imwhitewolf - May 29, 2013 at 12:07 AM

      Agree with you totally. And agree with the poster above. Charlotte was the pits.

  5. georgiotre - May 27, 2013 at 6:17 PM

    Reblogged this on Guy Opinionated.

  6. midtec2005 - May 27, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    I agree with the tradition aspects, this race can’t have a GWC.

    But beyond that, the GWC is grossly unfair and is a stupid rule. I’ve seen too many nascar races where a guy has a 15 second lead and there is a crash with 2 laps left. On the ensuing GWC he loses the race. It is a TERRIBLE idea in EVERY series. It’s the primary reason I stopped watching nascar actually. Well, that and the phantom debris cautions.

    A GWC may have been exciting in this particular case, but it’s just extremely unfair in most cases.

  7. rshunter71 - May 28, 2013 at 12:59 AM

    Tradition? When did tradition once again rear its ugly head? I thought that it was banned long ago by the PC-crowd. How can anyone advocate against a change that will allow a bunch of dimwits to feel good?

    Bend to their will, you know it’s the right thing to do!


  8. Keith Collantine - May 28, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    “A green-white-checkered adoption would be an unnecessary boondoggle that the race doesn’t need.”

    Well said Tony. Let’s keep the gimmickry out of one of the last remaining great motorsport events.

  9. gimperj2013 - May 28, 2013 at 10:03 AM

    Here’s a “Theory” — the winner of the Indy AND his TEAM receive MILLIONS & MILLIONS of dollars. Just suppose, one member of The Team is leading the Indy w/just a few laps to go. He has a good car but knows there are 3 or 4 cars/drivers RIGHT ON HIS BUTT that have the ability to pass him at any time (sound familiar?). How many lead changes were there?

    Once a member of The Team gets into the lead (w/only 4 or 5 laps to go) another Teammate (that is back in the pack and has absolutly no chance of winning) “brushes the wall” causing a “Caution”. Guess who wins — guess who prospers.

    Think it can’t happen? Guess the World Series can’t be “Rigged” either!

    I’m all for a change in the rules; i.e., if a caution happens anytime after 190 laps, the field does a restart. It would definitely change the strategy of the last several laps, fuel consumption & pit stops plus it would allow a Classic Race to actually finish under a GREEN flag —- like it should!

    • moezilla - May 28, 2013 at 11:27 AM

      Considering that Tony and Dario drive for 2 different teams, you might wanna come up with another “theory.’

  10. sparky1002 - May 28, 2013 at 12:32 PM

    Yes, I know things change with time but it struck me that the race is called “The Indianapolis 500” and not “…501 or 502″…..TRADITION!

  11. historyvoice - May 28, 2013 at 2:47 PM

    I was at the race, and it was as thrilling and exciting an event as anyone could hope to see. On the drive home to Ohio, we talked about the GWC concept, but we came up with a tradition-preserving compromise: On any caution after lap 197, red flag the race and restart after the cleanup. That way, the race doesn’t end under yellow; there’s a true race to the finish while keeping the Indy 500 at 500 miles.

  12. surly1n1nd1anapol1s - May 28, 2013 at 8:59 PM

    Loved the race this year. Tony made the pass and took the risk of being passed yet again at turn three and likely the next. It’s not theory but strategy and risk. And spare me the green-white-checker drama. It’s manufactured strategy to punish viewers subjected to Larry Mac and DW.

  13. monsterbill - May 28, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    Finishing under yellow is boring, yes. But that race was outstanding. How many lead changes? And so few wrecks. I have been going to Indy for 30 years, and that was one of the best I have ever seen (1989 was the best so far :)). The reason that the last few races have ended under yellow is because the last few laps, the drivers are driving their butts off to win and Indy has done a decent job of making more of the field competitive. How many cars were on the lead lap?

    GWC can be argued both ways. If you dont have GWC and your leading at lap 198 and your backmarker teammate scrapes the wall, yes, yellow comes out, and you win. If you have GWC and you are in second place, 20 seconds back, and you can”t catch the leader. Your backmarker teammate can again scrape the wall, bring out the yellow, bunches up the field, and you then get the chance to slingshot him on the last lap. So it can work both ways.

    I, for one, am in favor of tradition. And Indy is full of just that. From “Back home again in Indiana”, to the yard of bricks, to the bottle of milk. And some things dont need to be improved upon. We all have our favorite race, be it Indy, Monaco, Daytona, LeMan, Spa, Bristol, whatever, once you get past the politics, sponsor obligations, and other drama, we all just want to see good hard racing. I like Indy just like she is. She may not be perfect, but she is a gem that I love, flaws and all. :)

  14. drylake - May 28, 2013 at 11:42 PM

    Robin Miller disagreeing with Despain on Wind Tunnel “It’s not the Indy 502 or 503. We don’t need no Green White Checker or Lucky Dog or any of that crap.” With so many oval races in NASCAR, the fans would go nuts if race after race was ended on yellow. The photo finishes put a cherry on top of what have become very dull races. Indy is one of a kind and leave it alone.

  15. Jeff - May 30, 2013 at 5:21 AM

    Let tradition stand.

  16. indy317 - May 31, 2013 at 7:28 PM

    not only tradition but the quality and integrity of racing is at stake. gwc is a gimmick plain and simple. these guys put their lives on the line at over 220 mph and to have a manufactured re-start is just wrong in so many ways. next some poser race fans will be calling out for the luckydog in indycar too. indycar is showing signs of improvement and growth along with some excellent racing so let’s not go backwards

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