All-Access with Alanis: The GWC – Only for NASCAR?

Following the weekend’s events at the Indy 500, when an enthralling race concluded under yellow due to a late wreck by Dario Franchitti, the white-hot debate regarding green-white-checkered finishes sprang up and has continued into the week. From fans to media members to drivers, the opinions on whether or not to end under yellow, and how to ensure a finish under green if so desired, have varied widely from person to person.

Debates regarding the finish of the Indy 500, sadly, have morphed into “NASCAR vs. IndyCar” arguments, when the true matter at hand deals with principle rather than comparison.  The two largest divisions on the issue of principle, however, are the advocates for G-W-C finishes in IndyCar and those against changing the rules. This particular debate is a unique one, considering that both sides have substantial backing and valid points; one side cannot incontestably prevail over the other.

Arguments for keeping current rules and not tweaking them to end under green center mainly around two points: tradition and entertainment value of the race as a whole. With this year’s Indy 500 being a memorable one to say the least, many propose that the race was good enough to excuse the fairly anticlimactic ending. Perhaps the most prevalent validation for not changing the rule is keeping tradition and ending the Indy 500, and other IndyCar races, at exactly the advertised distance rather than implementing methods to extend it for the sake of a race to the checkered. Supporters of ending under caution when necessary also argue that exercising GWCs in IndyCar would make the series harder to differentiate from NASCAR, and that IndyCar should stick to what its avid fans prefer, rather than what the NASCAR fans who are once-in-a-while watchers promote simply because the G-W-C rule is a NASCAR preference. In addition to this claim, bunched-up GWCs promote a higher risk factor for open-wheel cars than for stock cars due to the drastic difference in body styles, making GWCs in IndyCar a dangerous move to solely improve races that would otherwise conclude in caution.

Those avidly supporting the adaption of GWCs into IndyCar base their stance primarily on the same points as those against it, but of course, on the opposing side of those points. Tradition can only go so far before people need change, and according to GWC supporters, keeping procedures stagnant will keep fan growth stagnant as well – after all, the replacement of single-file restarts with double-file shootout-style restarts in both NASCAR and IndyCar was successful in amping up the entertainment, so why wouldn’t GWCs work the same way? The other topic – the entertainment value of the race – is argued by the pro-GWC group as well. While statistics clearly show that this year’s Indy 500 was by far one of the most entertaining in recent history, some believe that ending under caution made for a disappointing ending and are in favor of carrying the show through the end rather than parading to the checkered with the winner already determined.

Proposals from those in the middle ground of the issue petition for a change in order to end IndyCar races under green, but perhaps not by the NASCAR’s way, the GWC. Some called for not counting caution laps within the final laps, but this idea was countered by the fact that the method is far too similar to the procedures at any local short track. In the spur of the moment during the Indy 500, viewers cried out for IndyCar to throw the red flag while cleaning up Franchitti’s wreckage in order to preserve an exciting finish under green rather than having the field led to the checkered by the pace car. This solution, however, was deemed deficient as well due to the nature of the particular wreck and lack of true red-flag conditions.

Wherever you may stand, the bottom line of the debate is: it’s a tough decision either way. For every argument, there’s a counterargument. For every valid point, there’s an invalidity to be pointed out. So, which is the best direction for IndyCar to turn in? Should the G-W-C path be taken, as it was in NASCAR, or should IndyCar stick to its traditions?

But remember – ending under caution used to be a NASCAR “tradition” as well.

By Alanis King


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