Exclusive INDYCAR Nation News

Official control in Edmonton

Kyle Lavigne
| Jul 25, 2011


Brian Barnhart, Tony Cotman, and Al Unser Jr., who handle Race Control for INDYCAR, came under fire for not issues nay penalties after the multiple crashes we saw at Toronto. They were especially criticized when it was initially reported a penalty on Dario Franchitti had been given and then rescinded (it was later confirmed that no penalty was ever issued and a miscommunication between them and broadcaster Versus was blamed for the initial report).

More confusion set in when we learned the reasoning for the lack of penalties. In cases where a drive-through could have been given, the offending driver had received damaged and needed to pit, placing him or her at the back of the pack. That appeared to be penalty enough in the eyes of Race Control that day, hence why nothing further was handed down.

This week in Edmonton was a different story.  Reports that series officials demanded better and cleaner racing were backed up by the actions of Race Control from the moment the green flag waved. Initial contact between Alex Tagliani and Graham Rahal, which sparked the first lap crash between Rahal and Paul Tracy, was the first test of the day. Unlike the opening crash in Toronto between Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe (when Briscoe was not penalized), they handed out a penalty to the offending driver, Tagliani in this case.

The precedent was set that none of that type of contact would be tolerated this week. There’s a fine line between “racing incident” and “punting someone” and they drew that distinction. Similar penalties were handed down to Mike Conway, who spun Oriol Servia on lap 25, and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who spun Takuma Sato on lap 34. It should be noted, though, that E.J. Viso was not penalized for his contact with Scott Dixon on lap 29. Viso spun himself out while Dixon suffered a broken radiator, but didn’t spin in the incident.

In all, Barnhart, Cotman, and Unser Jr. were pretty consistent with their calls on Sunday and maintained control of the race. The first penalty to Tagliani reinforced the request for cleaner racing and was the proper call to make. Even though Tagliani was already at the back of the pack after replacing his front wing, a drive-through was still warranted for causing the crash. The same goes for Conway and Hunter-Reay, who didn’t suffer any damage in their altercations.

Hunter-Reay even immediately accepted the blame for his contact with Sato. “With Sato, I broke early and went for it. It was totally my fault, and I apologized to Sato,” he said post-race. “I apologize to the team too; we had a podium car for sure.”

No one wants to see the officials dominate a race or the drivers. But, letting the inmates run the asylum isn’t a good option either. After the crash filled Honda Indy Toronto, they needed to intervene and illustrate just what is and isn’t acceptable on the racetrack. They did exactly that at the Edmonton Indy and the landscape seems to be clearer because of it. The boundaries have been set, now it’s a matter of consistently enforcing them.


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  15. 15 mike n 30 Jul
    How about a driver making a threat to take another driver out while he's in the pits. When asked after the race if he indeed did make that commit he said he did. If race control knowingly let a driver on the track with vengence as his goal and a race car as a weapon than we still have a long way to go.  
  16. 16 Paul 28 Jul
    True Seehig.  Just saying it was good to see race control doing their jobs for once. 
  17. 17 Seehig 26 Jul
    REALLY???  Let me get this straight. spin someone out, get a drive

    through penalty. You don't lose a lap and you almost get a top 3 finish. or Get

    spun out from someone, take a little damage from the car that spun you out. Lose

    lap while getting everything repaired, finish in the back. Sooooo who got the

    penalty?  Your better off driving like a mad man and cut a few tires replace a wing or two and finish top 10.
  18. 18 Paul 26 Jul
    Being consistent is the key.  Too many time I have seen some drivers get penalized and other do not.  I was great to see race control take care of business this past weekend.  I sure hope it continues. 
  19. 19 Paul 26 Jul
    Being consistent is the key.  Too many time I have seen some drivers get penalized and other do not.  I was great to see race control take care of business this past weekend.  I sure hope it continues. 
  20. 20 Flipper 25 Jul
    I agree with the broadcast.  If your front wheel touches the back or back wheel of the car in front of you, you get a black flag.  The penalty, however, doesn't seem to fit the crime.  Tagliani gets a stop and go penalty in the pits (loses about 50 seconds) and ended up in contention for a considerable portion of the race.  Rahal and Tracy get to watch the rest of the race and spend a bunch of money to fix their wrecked race cars.
  21. 21 open wheeler 25 Jul
    Well, we are headed in the right direction. Now we need consistency race to race and twisties to ovals. Example: hit a tire or crewman it's a penalty. If the tire or crewman is in the wrong location then give the team a penalty. AND, make it significant. Finally, a reason for enthusiasm in this arena. Let's just see if it continues.

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