IRL BURIED — FINALLY


If the IndyCar Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16 as is tentatively planned, some big changes will greet fans.

That’s based on big news from Tuesday’s IndyCar state of the union address in Indianapolis.

First, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard dumped the use of the name Indy Racing League and IRL for all references to IndyCar. It only will be called IndyCar.

Bernard’s alphabet now includes only 23 letters.

The dreaded memories of how the formation of the IRL in 1996 nearly killed American open-wheel racing will now be a bad memory.

"The time has come for our sport to move forward under a name that truly signifies a unified organization,” Bernard said. “The IndyCar name has worldwide recognition and aligns with our positioning as the fastest, most versatile racing and drivers in the world."

While that move is symbolic, a few other developments will be welcomed by racers and race fans.

First, IndyCar races on ovals this year will implement a double-wide restart system similar to what NASCAR instituted last year. Previously, most restarts resulted on single-file parades. Boring.

"We're trying to increase the excitement and drama around the events," competition director Brian Barnhart said. "Much of it is a response to fans' expectations."

The double-wide restarts will begin with the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 that is IndyCar’s first oval race of the season. The race director will instruct drivers to line up according to running order on the final caution lap, with the race leader taking the inside position of Row 1.

Pit assignments this year will be determined by the qualifying performance from the previous similar venue instead of based on season points standings.

Another big change is that fans as young at 9 years old will be able to get into the garage area of IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights events.

This can be done because IndyCars — unlike those in NASCAR — are not driven in the garage area.


NASCAR RESTRICTS DRIVERS

NASCAR's competition applications for 2011 require drivers to select one series in which they will race for a championship this season.

The declaration will prevent Sprint Cup drivers from racing for championships in the Cup and Nationwide series, and presumably fill NASCAR's desire to give its second-tier series its own identity.

The change is intended to give a better opportunity for exclusive Nationwide and Truck series drivers to contend for championships.

The last five champions in Nationwide were all full-time Cup drivers, and Justin Allgaier was the only non-Cup driver to win one of last season's 35 Nationwide races.

The change will likely only affect Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards, the only two drivers who had planned to run the full schedule in both series.

NASCAR likely will not limit the amount of Nationwide and Truck Series races that Cup drivers can enter. Doing so could be a deterrent to many fans, some of whom only get to see NASCAR's stars race live in those lower-tier series.