The Indianapolis 500 will have a conventional points allocation in the IndyCar Series this year, reversing the double-points rule that had been in place since 2014.
It has been decided after review that the double-points rule “has proven to overly penalise full-time championship teams that have performed poorly in the 500”, according to a statement released by IndyCar.
“For 17 consecutive seasons, the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship has been decided in the final race of the season,” said IndyCar president Jay Frye.
“While double points at the Indianapolis 500 has not altered who won the season-long championship, occasionally it has had a negative effect on the final position of the full-time teams.
“As our entry list grows, this move will provide consistency for teams competing for championship positions while not diminishing the importance of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.”
It’s right that the rule has not altered the champion. Also, the winner of the 500 has not won the championship since 2012, despite the huge points incentive on offer for winning at the Brickyard.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway president J. Douglas Boles added: “For over 100 years, the Indianapolis 500 has been the pinnacle of motorsports.
“From the pre-race festivities, to drinking milk in Victory Lane to adding the champion’s likeness to the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, its rich traditions have made it a prestigious annual event.
“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway supports the change by INDYCAR to enhance the integrity of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES championship.”
Marcus Ericsson was last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, but even with the double points, he was still outscored on ovals for the year by Pato O’Ward, and misfortune blighted the last quarter of Ericsson’s season as he finished sixth in the overall standings, 54 points behind champion Will Power.
The Race Says
I always understood the concept of double points, and especially that the Indy 500 is at least twice as important as any other IndyCar race – so why shouldn’t teams be awarded even more?
It’s just that the logic doesn’t play out.
All 33 or more cars are already trying to win the event. If there’s one event of the year they don’t need extra motivation for, it’s the Indy 500. So with double points all you are doing is giving drivers a tough decision to make – gamble for a result that’s even better for the championship because of double points, or settle with what you have to avoid a season-wrecking points setback.
Settling has become less of a choice and more of a fact of racing at the 500 since the aeroscreen device was introduced for 2020, as often overtaking is just so tough these days.
Jay Frye might also say that the championship hasn’t been decided by this rule in the past, and that’s true in a literal sense. But in a hypothetical scenario, a driver chasing might have had to take more risks if he’s had a bad Indy 500 where his main rival had a good one. Even in 2020, Scott Dixon was second at the Indy 500 and Newgarden was fifth, but without double points that would have been a six-point gap at the end of the year instead of 16.
Maybe Dixon takes a risk under pressure if he didn’t have that result in the bag, or Newgarden wouldn’t have had to have risked so much all the time to mount his comeback.
Newgarden is probably the driver who has been hurt most by this, especially in recent years while Penske has struggled at the Indy 500, and he’ll likely be happier than anyone that series owners Penske Entertainment and its personnel have made this call.
I can also see the argument that it is detrimental to the regular field, and the whole thing is much better off as a single-points affair.
Upping the prize money was always the best way to reward those going for broke at the 500, rather than shackling those in the midfield who know only a crazy gamble will win the race but could also cost them dear in the championship if it inevitably goes wrong.
Those gung-ho moves don’t really exist at the 500 anymore, either.