It Just Keeps Getting Worse – I thought… I think, we all thought that we had seen the worst of what TGBB could muster. In true form, he goes above and beyond the limits of any reasonable crazy person, and threw the green… on a wet oval… with slick tires bolted onto the cars. The result? INDYCAR’s version of the big one and a red flagged race. After a frantic and angry few minutes that saw Will Power give the double half peace signs to the folks in race control, the race was checkered mercifully, putting the event out of its misery. TGBB then shows up in the Verse broadcast booth, explaining that he reacted to all data he had and made an informed decision to restart the race. Barnhart continues, basically saying he had no communication with the teams, drivers, corner workers, safety team, in car cameras, high mount cameras, trackside cameras, super secret “race control only” cameras, a window, door or the entire outside world as a whole. The guy could have stuck his hand out the window and in an instant, know it was too wet to continue the race.
Of all the gaffs and bad calls he has made over the years, this could have been the worst example of plain delusion, a complete disconnect of brain from body. The conditions were unsafe and we all could see that on TV. As the cars were spinning down the front straight, there was spray coming from the tires. The issue that has me most worried is; where was Tony Cotman or Al Unser Jr? They have both been on the record stating that they wouldn’t, ever, take the race steward position so they might not have their hearts completely in it. But these two guys, who I respect as do many fans and officials, did nothing to attempt to prevent the race from resuming. Cotman is the steward for Indy Lights, he had to have known those conditions were not conducive to racing. As a seasoned veteran, Al Jr. has seen, first hand, the results of too much rain on the track.
The problem is systemic. How could the flagman have heard the call to wave the green, but was not able to radio back that it is raining harder that when the yellow was initially thrown? Was TGBB threatening jobs? The only answer I can deduce is that, yes, the Iron Hand of Justice was threatening jobs and the lower level guys have reasonable worries when disobeying the chief race steward. Cotman and Unser can just walk out and they must see race control as Barhart’s sinking ship, and his alone. Nothing can be done to save the current revision of race officiating while he steers the boat towards the rocks. Dissention and apathy are rampant in the ranks, due to a diseased central command. Although TGBB is at fault, Cotman and Unser must be questioned, the green getting thrown took more than one person. (Ed: What about Randy Bernard… I’M JUST SAYIN…)
Rant completed. On with the recap of an exciting, albeit single sided affair for much of the afternoon.
Mike Conway – He must come bearing a huge check. After missing the 500, he has not, exactly, been the example of consistency and strong racing. Winning in Long Beach is the highlight of a downright terrible season. His latest atrocity was losing control, and spinning into the path of Graham Rahal… AKA, the man with the worst luck. Although turn two was trick all day long, Conway needed a strong result and patience pays more than places if the car is in pieces.
Takuma Sato – The man I never thought I would write about, has found an almost weekly place on these pages. Sato Chrome Horned the freaking championship leader! Actually, Dario Franchitti was restarting on the outside and took too much track, spinning off of Sato’s nose and making hard contact with the inside wall. But, Sato made a few new fans this weekend and has also been showing very consistently the past few races, one to watch out for when we go to Japan.
The Poor Guy in The Porta-Potty – We all know there was no one in there, but the comical moment highlights an often forgotten problem; tire walls have no place that close to a track, let alone accessible from the racing surface at an oval. They have a job, and it is to line run-off areas at road courses, not on the inside wall at an oval. Think 1998 IROC race at Indianapolis, I know those weren’t tires but impact deadening material should never become dislodged. This issue added with Simona’s huge impact at Milwaukee shows how very badly all tracks need SAFER barriers around the whole track perimeter and the entire inside wall.
Another fantastic event, spoiled by controversy in race control and hopes are low that anything is going to change this year. On the plus side, the championship is showing signs of life. Will Power was reinstated into a fifth place finish after the post race controversy. This places Power within 47 points of Dario. A true championship race could be on and Scott Dixon has overtaken Dario in the oval championship. Three twisties are next, starting with the always treacherous Infineon and two ovals to finish the season out. The end is in sight and the championship is not quite as locked up as it was last week.
Being based in Indianapolis, I ask anyone who reads to keep the victims of the tragic stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in your hearts. Indianapolis thanks you.