By Stefan Kristensen
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August 9, 2022
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What is Push to Pass in Indycar?

Imagine your favorite Indycar driver is in second on the last lap. He is right behind the leader. He pulls out to make the pass. If only there is a button he could push to make his Indycar just a bit faster and pull off the pass for the win. Now there is: Push-to-pass.

Push to pass is a button on the Indycar steering wheel pressed by the driver to give the Indycar more horsepower. Push-to-pass can be used by the driver to help make a pass, defend from being passed, or just help increase lap times. 

Push to pass, is this Mario Cart for Indycar? Let's take look at the push-to-pass system, how it works, and if it will give an Indycar driver the power up needed to make a pass. 

What is push-to-pass? 

Push-to-pass is a button on the Indycar driver's steering wheel they can press to increase the Indycar’s horsepower for a short period. The increased horsepower can make it easier to overtake another Indycar, prevent from being overtaken, or just help with lap times. 

How does it work? 

When activated, push-to-pass closes a wastegate on the Indycars exhaust. When the exhaust wastegate closes, it will cause the exhaust gas pressure to build. Higher exhaust gas pressure exerts more force on the supercharger causing the supercharger to spin faster. 

When the exhaust gasses spin the supercharger faster, they will increase the amount of fresh air pulled through the supercharger and forced into the engine. With more fresh air forced into the engine, the engine will be more efficient and increase the horsepower it can produce.

Here is a short video showing the process in detail. 

That’s too technical can you make it easier? 

Of course! In the simplest terms, push-to-pass will feed the engine more air allowing it to increase the horsepower of the Indycar, raising its top speed. 

How much increase will push-to-pass have on the engine? 

Push-to-pass will give the Indycars engine a small overall increase of 60 horsepower. This small boost at the right time can be the power the Indycar driver needs to make a pass.  

How long does it last? The entire race? 

Unfortunately for us and the drivers, there is a limited time to be able to use the push-to-pass feature on the Indycar during every race. It will vary by track but averages 150 to 200 seconds for road courses and street courses. Push-to-pass is not available on high-speed oval tracks. 

Can they use all 200 seconds at once? 

Push-to-pass is only available in up to 20-second increments at one time. The Indycar driver can choose to use all 20 seconds or deactivate push-to-pass anytime before the time is up and save their push-to-pass time for later in the race. 

They can also deactivate push-to-pass after the button is pressed before they use any boost. The choice is completely up to the driver on where, when, and how much is used at one time.

Is there any limit to where it can be used and when? 

When push-to-pass was first implemented in Indycar, drivers had to be within 1.5 seconds of another car to be able to activate the push-to-pass system. Changes were introduced in June of 2022 to eliminate the minimum gap needed to activate the push-to-pass system.  

So push-to-pass can be used anywhere at any time? 

There are still limits on when push-to-pass can be used. Indy car drivers can not use push-to-pass on race starts, race restarts, or the first lap after the start or restart. Push-to-pass is only available on road and street courses. It is not available on high-speed oval courses.  

Any other downsides to the push-to-pass system

Besides the limited amount of time to use push-to-pass the only other downside is that it consumes more fuel. This can affect the driver's strategy of where to use it, when to use it, and how much to use at any given time.  

Is push-to-pass available at every track? 

Push-to-pass is only available for use by drivers on the road and street courses. Push-to-pass is not available at high-speed oval racetracks. 

Is this new? When was push-to-pass implemented? 

Push-to-pass has been in motorsports for over 8 years. It was launched in the Champ Car series in 2004. It was implemented in the Indycar series in 2015. 

Why not just let them race? 

Push-to-pass may be considered by some as cheating. It may be considered by others to be dishonest. In reality, push-to-pass is available on all of the Indycars on the track. They all have access to the same technology. They all have the same button. 

Push-to-pass has brought more strategy and excitement to each race. It has brought a level of unknown to the driver about how much push-to-pass their competitors have left. That unknown can only add to the excitement and strategy of that race. 

Do any other motorsports have push-to-pass? 

Formula 1 has the Drag Reduction System (DRS) installed on their cars. DRS does not increase horsepower. DRS can be activated in predetermined zones to reduce the drag on an F-1 car allowing it to travel faster.  DRS can only be used within 1 second of another F-1 car.  

Formula E has an attack mode. Attack mode is 8 minutes of power boost that can be used throughout the race. They must cross completely through an activation zone to enable the boost. They also implemented fanboost which is voted on and awarded to the top driver. 

Conclusion

Push-to-pass is a button on the Indycar driver's steering wheel that can be pressed for an increase of power from an Indycars engine. Only available for 20 seconds at a time it can be used to pass, defend from being passed, or just help increase lap times. 

Push-to-pass increases fuel consumption and is limited to 200 seconds of boost through the race. The use of push-to-pass can add to the strategy of the race. It gives fans an exciting race and finish.  

Written by Stefan Kristensen
Passionate about motorsports ever since I was a little boy. Back then, I cheered on the racing cars simply based on their colors. Later I fell in love with the many stories behind racing that make it so interesting.
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