Marcus Ericcson, Josef Newgarden, Indianapolis 500, 2023

Drivers expect ‘dragon move’ ban and other Indy 500 rule changes


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IndyCar drivers expect to see changes to the rules following the controversial conclusion to last year’s Indianapolis 500.

Josef Newgarden passed Marcus Ericsson to win the race after an unprecedented final-lap restart. The series’ handling of a series of late red flags during the race came under scrutiny afterwards, as did the increasingly strong defensive moves made by several drivers at high speed.

Ericsson, who called the finish “dangerous and unfair” at the time, said this week he expects new rules to police the latter. Concern especially surrounds the so-called “dragon move” defence used by drivers at the exit of turn four, at speeds of over 350kph, where they approach the barrier which divides the circuit from the pit lane. If drivers collided or lost control at that point on the track, they would risk an extremely heavy impact with that barrier or spinning into the pit lane.

At the final restart Ericsson swerved sharply towards the barrier in an attempt to keep Newgarden behind him. The Penske driver pushed the move to extremes after taking the lead, driving well into the pit lane entrance before swerving back out again.

Although Ericsson believes moves like this will be difficult to stamp out entirely – especially on the final lap with victory in IndyCar’s biggest race on the line – he expects the series will take action on safety grounds.

“The swerving is going to be hard to police,” he said, “especially in the end of the race. People are going to do whatever it takes to win that race, it’s the biggest race in the world. So I think that’s going to be hard to block.

“But I think we can do something about that swerving down into pit entry. I don’t think that’s a good look and it’s been pushed more and more each year.

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“Josef took it to new extremes that last year going very deep into the pit lane and out there again. That for me is the biggest one because it goes with safety as well, we don’t want an accident there to happen because that would be bad. So I think something about that and I know that’s in the works as well.”

Josef Newgarden, Marcus Ericsson, Indianapolis 500, 2023
Newgarden passed Ericsson after the final lap restart to win
The decision to restart the race with a single lap remaining provoked controversy as IndyCar has handled similar situations differently in the recent past. While the 2014 race was restarted after a crash on the 191st lap of 200, the 2020 event ended under caution following a crash on lap 194.

Drivers were therefore taken by surprise when race control restarted last year’s race despite it being red-flagged with three laps to go. “If I’m second with a lap to go I’m hoping it will be red-flagged,” Ericsson admitted.

Santino Ferrucci, who finished third, also did not expect race control’s decision. “The final restart was something that we’d never done, to do a one lap out and go,” he said. “There is so many different variables.”

Although Ericsson wasn’t able to repel Newgarden’s last-lap charge, Ferrucci said “Marcus caught all of us off guard” and “did a hell of a job restarting that race.”

Helio Castroneves, who has won four of his 23 appearances in the race, says IndyCar needs a strict policy on how late in the race it will hold a restart.

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“In my opinion if you’re five laps to go or three laps to go or one lap to go, we should draw a line. I would say last year was kind of unexpected. Nobody wants to turn out to be okay. But I remember going through the field, and the green flag was thrown, and I was still in turn three. It was sort of like rushed.

“I feel if we just set up, which gives everyone, not only the drivers, strategists, the fans, understanding if lap X – two laps to go, one lap to go, whatever it is – the race is over because that’s the rules. That I would like to be more clarified, that if we’re going to come up with something, we should just determine it.”

However Castroneves, who will turn 49 before this year’s race, says he will not defend any less vigorously if he has a chance to achieve a record-breaking fifth win.

“I will drive the same way as I drove before,” he said. “When you go, you go all in. You don’t think about that.”

Video: The final lap of the 2023 Indianapolis 500

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Keith Collantine
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22 comments on “Drivers expect ‘dragon move’ ban and other Indy 500 rule changes”

  1. Jonathan Parkin
    13th January 2024, 12:52

    I’m on the fence about this (sort of)

    If you have to have a red flag and we are just over 75% distance say, by all means restart if it is possible

    However a red flag with two or three laps to go, just declare a result. Yes we do want to see a green flag finish, but sometimes it can’t happen and we need to accept that as part of the sport

    1. The reason it was done that way is because Penske owns the track and it was a Penske driver in second. Everyone who watches the 500 knows first is a sitting duck on a restart. Penske rigged it for Joseph. That simple.

  2. I do remember at the time thinking to myself that if something went wrong with Newgarden’s car he would have gone the pitlane and caused an almighty accident with serious consequences. Not sure there is a workable, written rule that can eliminate it but anything to mitigate some of the risk is worth pursuing.

    1. Maybe the line is already drawn. Like, what if you are not allowed to cross the pit line, make it a harsher penalty if for defending purposes. The zigzagging won’t be nullified and I think it’s ok. There’d have been casualties if something went wrong in 2023.

      1. Yeah, that seems like a reasonable thing to put into the rules. There are reasons why F1 made rules about crossing the pit entry and exit lines, exactly because of accidents / almost accidents happened at high speed.

  3. Resuming a race for one lap is a farce. They’d better finish it under yellows, or even call it a day if red-flagged on the penultimate lap, like in most other series.

    1. The best race ending in years was a one lap ending..
      so please if driving is possible drive.. its called a race.

      1. @osnola No wonder these guys can’t get a super licence!
        They should have watched the F1 guys handling Melbourne restarts safely and implemented that strategy.

  4. Basically a call for track limits to be enforced… Same reason it’s needed in F1, and every other racing series.
    Rules are there not just for the challenge, but also very much for safety. In order for them to work, they need to be enforced and respected.

  5. The move is exciting! Why not only allow it a certain distance (wide) away from the pit barrier?

    1. Yes! Finally a motorsport fan! On a track that is all about the battle of slipstreaming you need to allow… well… slipstreaming battles.

      1. at a certain point there were racing in pity entry but ok
        It was exciting but absolutely dangerous, if either hit the barrier: red mist and flying parts right into pit and the track.

  6. The restart itself was handled quite well; a lot of the complaints about it being unsafe predictably came from people who stood to lose from the race continuing, with RACER quoting several insiders afterwards who said tyres etc. were perfectly fine to go.

    But what made it a bad experience was that it was the third restart in just 15 or so laps. The Indy 500 is always going to become frantic towards the end, but maybe an alternative solution to this high number of late race incidents would simply be to take everyone who is not in the top 10 off the track by something like lap 185 or 190.

    1. Agree – I understand Ericsson being sore about it, as he was the one who lost out, but he should probably remember that he was the one who kicked off the train of red flags by wrecking O’Ward, and was lucky to be allowed to participate in the closing laps at all.

  7. The ‘dragon move’ scares the life out of me. The lead car swerving towards the inside track has full visibility of where the end of the pitlane wall is, but the cars behind can only see as far as the rear wings in fridge not of them. When/if the lead car leaves it to the last second to swerve back across and onto the circuit proper I’m always scared that the following cars won’t have enough time to react and will just plough head on into the end of the pit wall. So banning this move is very sensible in my view, without doing so is just waiting for a massive accident to happen.

    1. In fact to optimize the move you would take an arc where the following car cannot take the full slipstream without either hitting the end of the barrier or exiting the corner early and risking a spin. It’s going to end in tears if it’s not banned. People will get more creative and aggressive with it until it’s stopped.

  8. It wouldn’t work quite as well as some European track, but perhaps Indy could introduce a rule similar to what F1 uses(/used?) at Baku, where I believe it was in the Race Director’s notes that anyone crossing any part of the pit entry line (it might have been with 4 wheels) has to enter the pits, or will be penalised. I seem to remember Kimi got a penalty for it in the 2016 race.

    Whether Indycar would be willing to penalise the winner of it’s biggest race after the end of the race is a different matter though…

    1. Better than burying one of the other competitors or pit crew. Ban the dragon, before the Year of the Dragon gets under way.

  9. The last lap of last year’s 500 was ridiculous on multiple levels. They should t have even restarted with one lap to go. That’s very similar to the F1 2021 finale.

    1. The “finish under green flags no matter what” mindset only seems to cause problems, especially in the slap dash, unfair manner it’s been applied that has disadvantaged huge numbers of drivers (people tend to forget it wasn’t just whoever was leading at the time who was disadvantaged). Finishing under yellow or declaring a result early if red flagged is fine.

    2. Exactly, I like Max but he didn’t deserve that win.
      If they had did it according to rules it couldn’t have restarted.
      Let’s clear that last lap up. If Marcus had not swerved at turn two he probably would have won.
      If he had moved right and floored it when Newgarden did what he did, he probably would have won.

  10. Marcus Ericsson is a two-time Indy 500 winner, and I will die on this hill.

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