O2 Racing Technology Appeal Denied
From uplifting to tragic, we switch gears to talk about the ugly business surrounding the conflict between INDYCAR and the O2 Racing Technology team and its owner and president Mark Olson. Earlier this month, O2RT withdrew from the Milwaukee event after growing concerns over favouritism being showed by the INDYCAR technical inspection officials. Allegations of cheating were leveled against Sam Schmidt Motorsports specifically in regards to their race-winning car at Indianapolis, and at Team Moore’s #22 machine at Barber Motorsports Park. O2 Racing Technology’s driver of their #36 entry, Peter Dempsey, refused to take the green flag and pulled off track at the start of the David Hobbs 100. Immediately there after, O2 Racing Technology announced that they had withdrawn from the series due to integrity issues within the league. INDYCAR, in turn, issued a statement after the Iowa race weekend that O2 Racing Technology and Mark Olson were to be suspended from the Firestone Indy Lights championship for the remainder of this season and the entirety of next season. The league will not allow them to reapply for a license and membership until after December 31, 2012, claiming that O2RT and Mr. Olson’s actions in Milwaukee had violated league rules prohibiting the interference of a race event. That’s all old news, and if you’re a regular reader, you’ve already heard out take on this.
This morning, O2 Racing Technology had their meeting with INDYCAR officials to defend their appeal of the ruling banishing the team and owner until 2013. At 1215 EDT this afternoon, O2 Racing Technology announce the result of that hearing via Twitter,
“We were just informed that INDYCAR has denied our protest. Formal press release expected shortly. #FIL” — @O2RT
About an hour after the twitter announcement from the team, INDYCAR issued the following statement regarding the protest.
INDYCAR UPHOLDS PENALTY, DENIES PROTEST FOR MARK OLSON, O2 RACING TECHNOLOGY
INDIANAPOLIS (July 15, 2011) – INDYCAR announced today it will uphold penalties issued to Firestone Indy Lights team owner Mark Olson and entrant O2 Racing Technology after a protest hearing by Race Director Tony Cotman.
INDYCAR suspended the entrant license of O2 Racing Technology and the membership of Olson until December 31, 2012, for actions during The Milwaukee Mile event June 18-19.
Cotman investigated and heard the protest July 14 in Indianapolis.
Olson was suspended for attempting to impede the conduct of the event by encouraging others to breach contracts with INDYCAR and withdraw from the David Hobbs 100. O2 Racing Technology was the only entrant to withdraw, removing its No. 36 entry from the participant list.
The actions were in violation of multiple rules as listed in the Firestone Indy Lights rulebook:
- Rule 1.1: Actions threatening the integrity of INDYCAR, Firestone Indy Lights and/or orderly conduct of an event.
- Rule 2.11 (C): Conduct creating adverse notoriety with respect to INDYCAR, Firestone Indy Lights or an event.
- Rule 9.3 (A): Attempting to or engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct or conduct detrimental to racing, INDYCAR and/or Firestone Indy Lights.
- Section 14 of the Event Entry Form: Engaging in tactics which would disrupt or delay the events.
Olson and the team filed a protest of the penalties with INDYCAR on July 5. Per Rule 13.1, an appeal may be initiated by 5 p.m. EDT of the second business day following the release of the protest decision.
The problem with the whole allegation is that apparently at no time does INDYCAR bring any evidence of the team “encouraging others to breach contracts”. This shades the entire affair with an ugly guilty-until-proven-innocent tone. O2 Racing Technology released their statement late this afternoon which states that not only did the league fail to provide evidence of wrongdoing, but that letters of support from other team owners testifying that no encouragement was given were submitted in vain.
O2 RACING TECHNOLOGY RESPONSE TO SUSPENSION BEING UPHELD
The INDYCAR Race Director Tony Cotman today upheld the penalty and suspension of O2 Racing Technology and team owner, Mark Olson. In the penalty (authored and assessed by Roger Bailey, Executive Director of Firestone Indy Lights), INDYCAR claimed, “… you encouraged team owners to boycott the [Milwaukee] event …”. This allegation against Olson was simply false, leading to an appeal by O2 Racing Technology and Olson of the penalty and a hearing held by INDYCAR on July 14, 2011.
At the hearing, INDYCAR admitted that it had conducted an investigation that failed to find a single person who claimed to have been encouraged to boycott the Milwaukee event by Olson. However, INDYCAR maintained that the burden rested on Olson to prove a negative, i.e., that Olson did not encourage a boycott. Despite Olson’s testimony to his innocence and personal team owner letters supporting Olson’s position, INDYCAR denied the appeal and ruled that there was insufficient evidence to reverse the penalty and suspension.
Mark Olson states, “I am very disappointed with the outcome of the protest, and I strongly disagree with the ruling. The penalty notice accusations are simply untrue. After yesterday’s hearing, I’m more convinced than ever that INDYCAR knew that the accusations are untrue. I don’t understand why they won’t just admit their mistake and attempt to undo the damage done not only to me personally, but also to the O2 Racing team and its sponsors and supporters.”
This is certainly a dark time for the league’s officiating staff with allegations both in Firestone Indy Lights and in the IZOD IndyCar Series of favouritism. This certainly isn’t anything new to professional sports. We always claim the ref is on the other teams payroll when calls go against our team, but the problem with the INDYCAR situation is that much of all this is happening behind closed doors and it simply feeds the conspiracy and gives legs to the allegations leveled by many.
As you know, we talked with Will Phillips at Iowa, and got some better insight into the matter. We know that the league is becoming more open to the teams themselves regarding infractions and penalties, but unfortunately, those of us in the public are still left on the outside looking in, wondering what mischief may be afoot. If INDYCAR is to escape the appearance of playing favourites, it needs to open up its officiating to public scrutiny and soon!