Notes: Standing starts coming at Toronto and Houston

I've always been indifferent toward standing starts. I acknowledge that they can be incredibly exciting when done right, and I also acknowledge that if they never came to the IZOD IndyCar Series, I would have been fine with that.

But indeed, standing starts will be introduced as part of two of the three doubleheader weekends on the 2013 schedule. While the first of those weekends, the June two-step at Detroit's reconfigured Belle Isle Park, has been passed over, Race 1 at both Toronto and Houston will feature them (the second races at those two venues will have a standard rolling start).

The standing starts will break down like this: Following the command to start engines and a formation lap, the field will take their starting positions on the grid. Race Control will give the drivers a heads-up at five seconds before the beginning of a light sequence on a trackside system. The red lights will illuminate one-by-one and then, all of them will go out to begin the race.

That trackside system will also be available to help drivers practice their start launches during pre-race practice sessions.

"We would leave the lighting system at pit out and designate a pit stall where drivers can stage themselves and practice standing start launches during official practice sessions," IZOD IndyCar Series race director Beaux Barfield said in a press statement. "It's a way for drivers to practice their own launches and get used to the lighting system."

Qualifying procedures for the doubleheader weekends have also been revealed.

For Race 1, qualifying will take place on Friday and follow the standard three round "knockout" format. However, the first round has now been cut to 10 minutes, bringing it in line with the other two rounds. In addition, tire usage in qualifying will now be determined by teams instead of mandatory allocation, which could provide an avenue for some interesting strategy.

The grids for Race 2 will be set on lap times from a 30-minute Saturday session.

Last year, INDYCAR started an experiment with heat racing for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. The starting grid for that particular race was determined by three, 30-lap races.

But for INDYCAR's return to the 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway bullring this season, those heat races will be extended to 50 laps. Said races will also include transfer spots for the top two finishers in the first two heats to the third heat.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly to drivers and teams, championship points will be doled out for the top 12 starters; the pole position will net nine points and the point level will descend by one for each position to a single point for 11th and 12th. The other non-Indianapolis 500 races on the schedule give one point for the pole winner.

Other cool stuff

A.J. Foyt Racing continues to mull over options for a second entry alongside their new primary driver, Takuma Sato, in the No. 14. According to SPEED's Robin Miller, the Honda-powered outfit from Texas is just about conceding that the No. 41 won't be a full-season entrant, with team director Larry Foyt telling Miller that it would be "pretty difficult to do" at this point in the offseason…The Firestone Indy Lights contingent is currently at Homestead-Miami Speedway for an Open Test today and tomorrow. Drivers taking part in the test include reigning Star/Pro Mazda champ Jack Hawksworth, as well as the 2012 Star Mazda runner-up Gabby Chaves (both running with Sam Schmidt Motorsports) and top American prospect Zach Veach (Andretti Autosport)…If you're in Houston this week, check out the Houston Auto Show on Saturday; Rahal Letterman Lanigan pilot Graham Rahal will be in the house to greet attendees from 2:30-3:30 p.m. that day. Just look for the Grand Prix of Houston booth…