Why the Lucky Dog makes a lot of sense for the IndyCar Series

Mike McGinnis

The final restart of Saturday's IndyCar race at Milwaukee was marred by lapped drivers defending against the leaders. This wouldn't happen if IndyCar featured a free pass.

While it's only going to be a problem on short tracks, something has to be done about lapped cars restarting within the middle of the lead pack in the IndyCar Series.

IndyCar restarts are single-wide on ovals and do not feature a free pass when the caution comes out.

As a result, the pace car will often trap cars at the tail end of the lead lap, in front of the leaders, and cars recently placed a lap down will sometimes restart right in the middle of the lead pack.

That was the case on Saturday at Milwaukee when lapped drivers Ed Carpenter and Tony Kanaan restarted right in the middle of the top-10 group with 30 laps to go. Carpenter defended his position in front of Power on the restart, drawing his frustration while Kanaan did the same thing to Scott Dixon a little further down the line.

The lap traffic behind leader Ryan Hunter-Reay allowed him to escape to a four-second lead within laps and the race was virtually over as soon as the lapped cars held up Hunter-Reay's pursuers.

The truth of the matter is that Carpenter and Kanaan had little business defending their positions on that restart. They were running a completely different race at that point and it was unlikely that they were going to get their lap back.

And I believe it negatively affected the outcome of what had been a very exciting race.

But more importantly, from my vantage point, there is no good counterargument to support the status quo. Rarely will a lapped car successfully retake their lap on a restart and more often than not, that driver only acts as a blocker for the cars trying to fight for the lead. Over the course of a long run, these cars often fall to the back anyway, where they arguably should have restarted in the first place.

While it will not be a popular opinion to most of IndyCar's traditional fan base, the most logical solution is to place each of the lapped cars at the tail end of the field in each restart and offer the first car a free pass. Yes, the Lucky Dog. I'm not suggesting this because it's what NASCAR does but rather because it's the right thing -- which is why NASCAR offered it in the first place.

The most popular response to this suggestion is that the leader earned the track position by placing so many cars a lap down. But that's a flawed argument. The leader also earned a multi-second lead over the second-place driver but that was also negated by the caution.

A restart should result in a clean reset for the leaders.

The final restart of the Milwaukee IndyFest could have featured a great battle for the lead between a handful of the sport's elite. But fans were denied it due to teams that were running a completely different race than the leaders -- and that's unacceptable in the modern era.

It's only a problem at Milwaukee but if IndyCar hopes to return to Phoenix, Richmond and New Hampshire -- and I hope they do -- the league should nip this problem before it has the opportunity to tarnish more potential great finishes.

Perhaps the lucky dog isn't the answer -- but it's the best one I've got. Do you agree or would you rather something else be done? Tell us the comments section below.

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