As I type this on Tuesday afternoon, we are all waiting with bated breath for Curt Cavin to tell the masses that there is a lit fire in the bell tower, that a decision has been handed down concerning the protest lodged by Target chip Ganassi Racing and Newman/Haas Racing.The coverage of this event is on par with any race. The twitter feed was dun blowed up all day long and it seems like everyone has some skin in the game, an opinion or genius answer. The unfortunate reality is there is no good, or positive outcome to be had from any of these proceeding. It doesn’t matter who wins, the way the situation was handled, from the waving of the red flag last Sunday, to the reveal of the verdict hopefully sometime today, the whole mess is just that, a mess.
The more I thought about the protest, the more irrational Andretti Autosport’s stance on the subject seemed to me. Having Ryan Hunter-Reay keep the win, and arguing that he deserved the win instead of earning it will only strengthen Barnhart’s and anyone else related to race control’s stance that the decisions made during that rainy Sunday evening are OK. AA, in my opinion, by fighting for RHR are going against the whole paddock, common sense in general, and the part of the rulebook that wasn’t written by a thousand monkeys with typewriters. I don’t blame them though; no one wants to have a win taken away, especially in these conditions.
There are, obviously, two outcomes in this situation, but we need to look at them from a more universal point of view. It is not about who won the race, RHR or Oriol Servia. The real outcome of this protest will mean one of two things; Brian Barnhart can and does have full sweeping power to run the event as he sees fit. Not even to the extent of “playing favorites” or affecting the outcome of races and championships, but that he can make, break and bend rules as he sees to guarantee the “integrity” of the event, in his eyes of course. The other outcome would constitute the support of the racing as a competition not as a source of entertainment, citing the sanctity of the green flag, and keeping with the “tradition” of open wheel racing.
Both outcomes are equally as damaging in their own way. Simply, there is no right answer. If Servia wins, the fans get cheated. I, along with tens of tens of fellow fans and the roughly 29,500 out of the 30,000 attendees who were not indycar fans, but curious NASCAR fans who came out “just to see what this Indy racing thing is all about.” Servia wining does uphold the rule book. From what I understand about the rules and restart procedures, once the green is in the air, it’s game on. There is no “wait for the start/finish line” before passing can begin. Servia completed the pass, and was ahead when the yellow was shown. If RHR keeps the win, it proves to the world how inept our race control actually is, that our rule book is a joke, and how quickly it all can hit the fan in the INDYCAR world.
Neither of these two outcomes makes me feel OK about the future of how the current rules will be interpreted. It’s tough to take a win away; it’s just as tough to support a flawed system. If there was no protest, the future would be a much easier river to navigate. A protest of a finish like this will only give everybody involved two black eyes, all the way down to fans like us trying to explain why indycar racing is the greatest sport in the world. There will be no winners and indycar will, once again, have to go on a massive image rebuilding campaign. Doesn’t Danica look like a genius now? Jumping ship for NASCAR after this year doesn’t seem like such a bad idea, but I digress.
I am worried about the future with whatever verdict is handed down. I can’t place it, possibly the rain or use of USAC type rules or total disregard of rulebook, but something is different about this instance of win protest compared to the 2002 500, the parallel that many are making to our current situation. The outcome won’t be, as every day that passes insures RHR keeps the win and the worse it would be for everyone if the results are changed. My answer? Keep the results published on Sunday. You don’t have to fire Barnhart immediately, but adding layers of management and increasing transparency are changes that need to be made before the green flag falls at Sonoma. A total rewrite of the rules needs to be completed before St. Pete next year, as well as receiving a letter of resignation from TGBB. Does any of this even matter? The decision of the protest can just be protested again. My head is spinning. This is a sticky situation we have all been put in by the continually inept inner workings of the INDYCAR chain of command. I keep telling myself that there is light at the end of the tunnel, but days like this make it a hard idea to believe.