INDYCAR, we can’t pick our fans, but we can pick our officials

So another work week is wrapping up, with a Saturday night INDYCAR race waiting for us. Don’t worry; I am not going all Rebecca Black. However, all week the biggest chatter among the INDYCAR fans on-line has been a lack of penalties to Dario Franchitti.

While many fans have a very valid point that the series needs rules with consistent enforcement. “Black & White” as many have called for, would mean if you violate there is no exceptions. Well, this is more of a NASCAR like move. Once upon a time, you could get a penalty there because if the rear tire changer had the car behind them hit the tire out of his hand and it went out on pit road, well the rule book clearly said you will serve a penalty for letting a tire get away. (They did not have an exact exemption for other teams making it get away). In the 1980s they tried a no exceptions rule of pit road being closed when a yellow came out until they opened it. That included cars that were the reason for the yellow. (YES, they did penalize teams for coming down pit road with a flat tire. Although it only was a rule that lasted about three races).

Consider the Dixon & Sato accident on pit road at the mile. (If you got to see the replays. My local ABC feed was choppy, a nice friend sent me that section from his DVR Monday to watch. Heard Dixon’s spotter drop the F-bomb. Now I know why there was a jump in coverage.)

When Sato was counted down to his pit, he started for the wrong pit of the 6 thinking he was on top of his. As he made the wrong move he and Dixon collided. Dixon hit one of his own tires causing it to bounce down pit road. Sato then got out and instead hit his tire changer and tire in his pit upon entry. (That contact earned Sato a penalty. Which I believe is also Sato’s first penalty in INDYCAR as well).

Dixon also hit a tire which in a “black & white” world means the 9 also should serve a penalty, no? Well that is correct, see the slippery slope of black & white rule calls is then you penalize too many people. Remember the excessive blocking calls in the 2010 Indianapolis 500?

So careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

The bigger thing fans should be talking (or “tweeting) about was O2 Racing leaving the Firestone Indy Lights Series. This is a podium level team that withdrew the day of the race. They complained about a system that rewards favoritism. Technical violations are over looked for some teams.

Well, while it is two different sets of people who are in-charge of officiating the FIL and the IZOD INDYCAR Series. However what was formerly known as the IRL, is the umbrella group for both series. Many have made the same charges this week about the big cars. Hell, Dario complained in victory lane live on ABC and IMS Radio about Helio blocking. There is a driver complaining about their officials not calling him on a rules violation.

Although many say this is “the kettle calling the pot black”. See, Dario hit Will Power’s front tire and tossed the changer off it. According to the rules that should be a penalty. Well it was treated more like Dixon hitting a tire when forced by Sato.

The problem is the formula was rigged by a few people recently. A select group of owners have a “Get out of jail free” card. Although it varies by series; in the big series Penske and Ganassi have their own set of rules, in Lights we are still unaware of all the details. It seems that cheating is even more prevalent in the “farm system”.

This is very troublesome for a series that needs to groom more stars. Imagine if the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs (Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A farm team) discovered that the International League had a separate set of rules for the Scranton Yankees and Pawtucket Red Sox? What would this tell the other parent clubs like the Phillies? Simple, MLB doesn’t care because they just want to promote the Red Sox & Yankees on national games. So why even bother trying to build a winning team when the league’s pet will be handed the wins?

The majority of teams in the IZOD INDYCAR Series are the Phillies or Rays of INDYCAR. Are we really saying the whole sport is built around two owners dominating and have a free pass to do as they wish? I seem to see it. Will it really matter if Barnhart is fired when his possible replacement is also in training to do the very same thing?

You think those empty seats at the mile were a joke? Just wait until the dirty secret explodes. You don’t just groom drivers and mechanics in the Lights. The Mazda Road to Indy, just like minor league baseball is where you groom future officials too. If you want fair officiating in the big cars, you better get it in the lights as well. Otherwise, get the tombstone ready.

NOTE: Starting with the next race, the “Indy Hump Day Report” will be my fantasy racing column, with my Op-Ed pieces coming on Fridays now. Still working on a name for the Friday pieces, I am tempted to make an INDYCAR parody of Rebecca Black. I welcome all suggestion in the comments section. The zanier the more likely you will win.

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4 Thoughts to “INDYCAR, we can’t pick our fans, but we can pick our officials

  1. SMJ

    Spike, you forgot to mention in your piece that during the pre-race meetings with drivers and team management at Milwaukee, the problem of pit lane space and the laying-out of tires prior to pit stop was openly discussed and a procedure laid out which included not laying out front tyres when a competitor’s car in front of you was entering the pit before your car, as well as other recommendations……or were you not aware……or perhaps just on the BB witchhunt?
    This kinda puts the emphasis squarely on the shoulders of the Penske team and pulls attention to their true intensions.

    Pit entrance baulking has been going on since God was a boy and is almost an art form. I’ve seen guys practice it and put out markers on the ground for it and so why is it the drivers should be penalised instead of the teams that do the baulking?

    I’m all for black and white rules but make sure your penalising the right guys.

  2. Agree SMJ on the tire penalty. I was not overly informed about what happened as I missed it in the race (telephone call) but after watching replays, there are a lot of people who think this is as clear as night/day. The fact is, Penske left the tire out there to make it difficult on Dario, They did NOT pit together in a way which time was lost for Power. Sato ran a dude over and punted a tire on the stop. Penske does not HAVE to move the tire but on a very tight and bumpy pitlane it was a poor show of sportsmanship. Something Dario kinda showed after his win. I agree Helio is a problem but he could have handled off the record. His Texas rant was justified however.

  3. SMJ, well why no penalty from INDYCAR to Penske for that? Also why not a penalty on Dixon who also was doing that? Matter of fact, Dario said the 12 was working with them and not being dirty. It all just goes to make my point about who the rules do & don’t apply to. Thanks for reading and your comments.

  4. SMJ

    Spike, in an ideal world we’d all like everything to be black and white so that rules can be applied in the manner they are projected. Unfortunately, we don’t and several factors come into play which make this a difficult area to judge upon;
    1. The size of the pit box. It’s not the same for every race and Milwaukee presents a particularly ‘tight’ fit for a car to hit its marks, especially if a team behind you wants to make it difficult for you…and they all do! As tight as the box is, a couple of inches further out with a tire by the Penske guys and Dario’s guys don’t get to plug in for fuel (yes, it is that critical!)
    2. Just with the competitive nature of the crews, they want to make their cars as fast as they can and also hinder the rest of the field as much as they can….within certain confines.
    3. Unless you are going to analyse each and every cars pit stop, how will it ever be fair.

    What was seen in Milwaukee happens many times, sometimes in the same race…but you don’t get the luxury of seeing it and that’s a fact. The difference is that 99% of the times this scenario occurs, its the driver that suffers with the delayed pit stop. Why no penalty from INDCAR to Penske? because if they gave them one, they’d have to also give penalties to 95% of the field. Penske really didn’t do the ultimate in dirty tricks because if you really want to make it difficult you put the guy out there where the tire was..instead of the tire then I think Dario would have had a different opinion if that had happened.

    Finally, I’m not saying your ideal is wrong, just that it’s not such a black/white scenario that we’re dealing with and there are many influences that come to bear in making decisions of this nature and not just the ones we get replays of on TV.

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