So how much does it cost in addition to the normal operating expenses associated with running a team and fielding equipment to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race? Apparently, only a mere $7500 and five entrants points. There should be a giant bonanza of feel-good stories after the great racing at the Texas Motor Speedway, first 1.5-mile high-banked oval the series has run since last year’s race in Las Vegas, and race which culminated in victory for the small operation of Dale Coyne Racing and fan-favorite driver Justin Wilson. Wilson has always been thought of as a road-course specialist, and had struggled on the ovals.
Last Saturday under the lights on a hot, humid Texas evening, Justin Wilson executed a pass for the lead, leaving Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Graham Rahal chasing in an injured car, and sailed on to take his first oval victory. Everyone was happy! Everyone was thrilled for Dale Coyne and for Justin Wilson. Everyone that is except for Will Phillips, Vice President of Technology, and Beaux Barfield, Race Director and President of Competition.
Following post-race technical inspection, the #18 car of Dale Coyne Racing was found to have a part, a rear sidepod extension, that was explicitly prohibited from use during the race last weekend. The part in question is designed to develop additional downforce on the rear of the car. During various meetings with IndyCar officials concerning the safety of the 1.5-mile high-banked ovals, the dominant request by the drivers was to remove downforce from the cars forcing drivers to have to work the throttle entering and exiting the turns. IndyCar listened and issued a bulletin prior to the Texas race listing the various downforce-creating components that were prohibited from use that weekend. The result was a race filled with outstanding action without the high-risk, low-reward pack racing which had been the status-quo for more than a decade. When the offending part was discovered post-race, IndyCar penalized the team both with a fine and a docking of points.
INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, June 11, 2012) – INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, announced today penalties stemming from post-race technical inspection of the June 9 Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The No. 18 car Dale Coyne Racing car driven by Justin Wilson was fined $7,500 and docked five entrant points for not complying with the sidepod top deck aerodynamic element of Rule 126.96.36.199.
188.8.131.52 Texas Aero Summary (Updated June 3, 2012 via bulletin)
The following parts may not be used at Texas Motor Speedway:
· Sidepod Top Deck IR1225195RH/LH – IR1202A031/32
Looking at what Dale Coyne is having to pay out, $7500 and 5 points, versus what he gains as a bonus for winning $50,000 and 50 points, I’d say he’s still coming out ahead on the deal. Which, of course, brings up a question. If you were put in Dale’s position, wouldn’t you have made the same decision to keep the illegal part on the car? How could you not? Even if you don’t win, but merely finish in the top-5, when ordinarily you would not have done, you’re still coming out money and points ahead. In other words, it’s profitable to cheat.
Now I don’t think that Justin or Dale went out with an illegal car with malicious intent. It’s a part that gets bolted on as a matter of course at every other race track. More than likely, it was bolted on prior to the race out of habit and wasn’t noticed until after the race. However, that additional part gave Justin additional downforce and rear stability, something that other drivers were struggling with all race long. Proven 1.5-mile oval expert, Scott Dixon, even was caught by a unstable rear as his car spun and struck the wall. Sadly, I do believe that this discovery cheapens Wilson’s win, and takes away from what should be a fantastic feel-good story. It also points to an exploit that others can use to purposely circumvent the rules and realize a gain whether they are caught and punished or not. When it comes to punishment for a rules infraction, the penalty should be greater than the benefit realized for violating a rule. It stinks that it was Dale Coyne and Justin Wilson, but the car should have been disqualified and the win credited to Graham Rahal.
Agree with me? Disagree? Leave me your comments below and share with us your point of view.