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Penalty for Indy 500 ‘dragon’ move clarified

Written by Archie O’Reilly

The NTT IndyCar Series has clarified the penalties for the dragon-like move most recently used at the end of the 2022 and 2023 Indianapolis 500 races by winners Marcus Ericsson and Josef Newgarden.

The move has been outlawed by a rule change that will see drivers penalised for ducking below a dashed white line from the exit of Turn 4 to the pit entry attenuator. Leading drivers had been weaving to the left of that line in an attempt to break the slipstream at the end of recent runnings of the Indy 500.

While it was revealed pre-season that this change would take force, there was no clarification of what penalties may be given and what exactly would constitute a rule breach.

But in a drivers’ meeting on Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it has been confirmed that a driver will be penalised if they have their left-side tyres past the dashed line. Exceptions include if they are entering the pit lane, avoiding an incident or attempting to avoid a closed pit lane and return to the racetrack.

Penalties that IndyCar can impose include a drive-through penalty. If it is during a caution period, the car will be moved to the rear of the restart lineup.  If it is at the conclusion of the race, the series can apply a time penalty equal to a drive-through penalty - this would inevitably be an unprecedented call.

“I think it’s going to be hard to police that, especially at the end of the race,” Ericsson, who used the swerving tactic to his benefit en-route to winning the 2022 Indy 500 while coming out on the other side as runner-up last year, said in January. “People are going to do whatever it takes to win that race. I think that’s going to be hard to sort of block that. 

“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. I think Josef took it to new extremes last year going very deep into the pit lane and sort of out there again. I think that for me is the biggest one because it goes with safety. We don’t want an accident there.”

Both Ericsson and Newgarden posted their agreement with the decision to ban the move on X in February. The pair ultimately pushed to the limits and were completely within their right to weave as they did while it was legal. But that does not mean they agree with it being allowed.

“This is the right move for the future,” Newgarden wrote. “Boundaries are meant to be pushed and rules are meant to push back. You should expect to see additional rule changes that will help reign in other driving standards at Indy, without removing the ability for drivers to race hard.”

A revised IndyCar restart procedure for 2024, which sees the restart line designated in the final corner, will not be implemented for the Indy 500 after collaboration with the teams and drivers. Instead, as in previous years, cars are able to start racing and pass when the green flag is thrown.

There will be EM Motorsport light panels around the track to display all flag conditions alongside the traditional cloth flags in addition to traditional track condition lights.


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