Skip to content

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.”

Latest Posts
  1. Gordon’s Brickyard legacy superb, but can’t be compared to other Indy legends

    Jul 27, 2014, 7:52 PM EDT

    Jeff Gordon AP

    A world of differences make it impossible to weigh Jeff Gordon’s accomplishments at Indy against those of A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Sr., and Michael Schumacher.

  2. Kyle Larson has solid outing in first Brickyard 400

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:52 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

    INDIANAPOLIS – Jeff Gordon gave himself an early 43rd birthday present with Sunday’s Brickyard 400 win. Kyle Larson also gave himself an early birthday present – his 22nd will be Thursday – with a solid seventh-place finish in his first Brickyard.

  3. Joe Gibbs Racing has great overall Brickyard run, but Denny Hamlin’s car could have issues

    Jul 27, 2014, 6:13 PM EDT

    joe gibbs AP

    INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t quite the 1-2-3 finish they might have hoped for, but it was almost just as good for Joe Gibbs Racing’s three drivers in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch finished second to winner Jeff Gordon, followed by Denny Hamlin in third and Matt Kenseth was fourth.

  4. Kyle Busch picks up 3rd runner-up finish in last 4 races

    Jul 27, 2014, 5:41 PM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 Getty Images

    Rowdy continues his strong performance as of late with another P2 at Indianapolis.

  5. Kasey Kahne unable to hang on late at the Brickyard

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Kasey Kahne AP

    Kasey Kahne led a race-high 70 laps, but lost the Brickyard 400 lead to Jeff Gordon on a restart with 16 laps to go and faded to sixth.

  6. Jeff Gordon wins record 5th Brickyard 400 in vintage fashion

    Jul 27, 2014, 4:17 PM EDT

    (AP Photo/Robert Baker) AP

    INDIANAPOLIS – It was an oldie but goodie performance as Jeff Gordon – seven days short of his 43rd birthday – rallied late to win Sunday’s 21st Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  7. Hungarian GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

    Jul 27, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    One final round-up from the Hungaroring following Daniel Ricciardo’s supreme victory.

  8. Broken axle spoils Danica Patrick’s day, Brickyard win hopes

    Jul 27, 2014, 2:53 PM EDT

    (Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

    A broken rear axle ended Danica Patrick’s day prematurely in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  9. Brickyard 400 Update: Strategies shifting, but Kahne’s leading at halfway

    Jul 27, 2014, 2:43 PM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 Getty Images

    Strategy plays have been plentiful in the first half of today’s race at Indianapolis.

  10. Sebastian Vettel struggles to seventh in Hungary after spin

    Jul 27, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Defending world champion has a quiet race at the Hungaroring; now 43 points behind Ricciardo in the drivers’ championship.

  11. Hamilton unsure why he was asked to let Rosberg past

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:15 PM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Briton was asked twice to let Rosberg past, but he defied team orders on both occasions.

  12. Carl Edwards says he has a 2015 deal “worked out”

    Jul 27, 2014, 1:03 PM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 - Practice Getty Images

    “I have a deal moving forward. I can’t announce it yet. When all those pieces come together, it’ll be announced and we’ll talk about it.” – Edwards

  13. Perez and Ericsson crash hard in Hungary (VIDEOS)

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Big crashes for both Perez and Ericsson, but luckily neither suffered any injuries.

  14. Alonso: Second place “a nice surprise” for Ferrari

    Jul 27, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Best result of the season for Ferrari with Alonso second and Kimi Raikkonen P6.

  15. Announcement of Edwards’ exit from Roush Fenway had some strange timing

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 - Practice Getty Images

    By making announcement hours before Brickyard 400, team owner Jack Roush didn’t seem to do Edwards any favors.

  16. Rosberg disappointed with fourth place behind Hamilton (VIDEO)

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Championship lead shrinks by three points after finishing half a second behind Hamilton at the flag.

  17. Hungry Hamilton charges from the pit lane to the podium

    Jul 27, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Cuts the gap to Nico Rosberg by three points, leaving the gap at just eleven for the summer break.

  18. Ricciardo elated with second Formula 1 victory in Hungary

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:45 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary Getty Images

    Red Bull driver won a sensational grand prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.

  19. Carl Edwards to leave Roush Fenway Racing at season’s end

    Jul 27, 2014, 10:33 AM EDT

    Camping World RV Sales 301 - Practice Getty Images

    Roush Fenway Racing announces that its 2015 Sprint Cup driver lineup will feature Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Trevor Bayne.

  20. Ricciardo rockets to sensational Hungarian GP victory

    Jul 27, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT

    Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing AP

    Australian driver claims a sensational win for Red Bull, the second of his F1 career.