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Wednesday, July 3
Rulebook disregarded by George, IRL
By Robin Miller
It was no surprise Tony George upheld Helio Castroneves' victory in the 2002 Indianapolis 500, but we did get a few revelations Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
1. Paul Tracy and Barry Green's team wasted their time and money appealing the outcome.
In one of the more bizarre days in motorsports history, IMS and IRL leader George basically admitted that Green's claim of Indy victory had no chance to be overturned because the decision made by IRL vice president of operations, Brian Barnhart, was not subject to protest or appeal.
Barnhart ruled that Castroneves was ahead of Tracy when the track went yellow on Lap 199. Citing Rule 11.2 of the IRL rulebook, George said a judgment call regarding yellows and the positioning of cars is final and not subject to protest or appeal.
Asked why he bothered to continue with the appeal process, George replied: "Given the circumstances and the fact the Indianapolis 500 is the largest motorsports event, I felt it was important to allow the process to be played out."
Played out to the tune of $100,000 in expenses, according to Green, who countered by stating his case was all about Tracy being ahead of Castroneves before any yellow lights came on and he then showed the media a copy of his denied protest on May 26 and the appeal procedure (signed by Barnhart).
"Our only argument was whether No. 26 was ahead of No. 3 when the yellow light came on and the caution period began," Green said. "No IRL official instructed us that we had a penalty (for passing under the yellow) or to realign ourselves on the track.
"Our argument is that when racing ceased who was first? And we know it was Paul."
Immediately after the race, Barnhart acknowledged he would use Rule 7.14 as one of the determining factors. It states: "The yellow caution period starts with the display of the yellow flag and/or yellow lights and ends with the display of the green flag and/or green lights. Racing ceases immediately upon display of the yellow flag and/or yellow light. Officials may call a yellow caution period at any time for any reason. Their decision to call, not to call, or end a yellow caution period may not be protested or appealed."
Green's entire case is based on video, reports from other drivers and data that puts Tracy just a few feet in front of Castroneves when the yellow light flashes on in Turn 3.
But, surprise, surprise Gomer, the IRL is now saying a yellow caution period begins when race control calls it on the radio. In other words, act like the old United States Auto Club (former Indy 500 sanctioning body) and ignore the rulebook whenever it doesn't work in your favor.
Racing ceases upon display of the yellow flag or yellow light! Not when two cars first smack the wall or an observer calls in to race control or when Barnhart asks his observers for details.
And not when the yellow light comes on the dashboard lights in the cars because they aren't synchronized with the yellow lights around the track.
Al Unser Jr.'s inboard camera shows Unser's dash light flashed on after the wall light came on and Sam Hornish Jr. reportedly gave his crew a play-by-play of Tracy passing Castroneves before the caution flashed on.
It's pretty cut and dried. Green doesn't deny that Tracy was behind Castroneves when Lauront Redon and Buddy Lazier tangled in Turn 2 -- but Barnhart admits it took four to five seconds to get the yellow light displayed.
In the future, it might be prudent to put seasoned racing people in the observer's booths and allow them the power to turn on the yellow light for any obvious accident. In the old days, an observer called for a yellow and it was almost instantaneous. Saving three seconds last May 26 would have saved everyone a lot of headaches.
To be fair, Barnhart has more racing savvy than anybody else who's called the shots at the Speedway for the past 50 years and he had to make a snap decision with a lap and a half to go in a race he didn't want to end behind a pace car at 60 mph.
But to ignore some compelling video and the rulebook makes no sense, unless this really is an IRL/CART thing.
I think everyone would have had a lot more respect for George if he'd have come out the day after the race and said Barnhart made a bang-bang decision, he's sticking by it, the people saw Castroneves celebrate in Victory Lane and that result is not going to change.
It would have been a lot more professional than this five-week charade or George admitting Green and Tracy were toast all along.
Watching George stumble and stammer through his prepared speech was painful enough, but the saddest part is that he didn't sound like he understood the process -- and he was judge and jury.
When he realized he didn't have the last page of his notes, he looked to Nation like a third-grader in his first Christmas play and was told to wrap it up.
Green said he felt like George had lost his way.
I don't think anybody who saw that news conference would disagree.Send this story to a friend | Most sent stories