Now, let me get this straight.
ABC announcer, and former racing driver Scott Goodyear, says on the air during a yellow flag period near the end of Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that the "people in race control" are in contact with the drivers and listen to what they have to say before deciding whether or not to try to restart a race if it’s, for instance, raining.
"The drivers know better than anyone," Goodyear said quite clearly.
Several minutes later, when it’s raining, the folks in race control throw the green flag anyway and Danica Patrick spins and all sorts of cars crash together. The leader of the race at the time, Ryan Hunter-Reay, doesn’t spin out but he spins his wheels and that allows both Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon to get past him before the yellow lights come on again because of the crashes.
Shortly after that, they throw a red flag to stop the race and all hell breaks loose.
Michael Andretti says it’s the worst officiating he’s ever seen and that "all the teams were telling race control not to start the race."
Will Power gets out of his wrecked car and goes bananas, flipping a double bird at the race control tower.
Hunter Reay, Penske Racing’s Tim Cindric and a host of others chime in to say they were all yelling over their radios not to start the race because it was raining too hard and why hadn’t race control listened to them?
There is mass confusion.
Then, suddenly, the checkered flag is waved.
Race over. But who won?
Brian Barnhardt, the president of competition for IndyCar and chief steward of IndyCar races, goes to the ABC booth and stands smack in the middle between play-by-play announcer Marty Reid and Goodyear and says he didn’t hear anything from any driver or any team about conditions being too terrible to try for a restart.
He said he made his decision to restart the race based on conversations he had with trackside observers, the safety team and the pace car driver and they all told him that conditions were just fine to put out the green.
Mr. Barnhardt then throws all those people under the bus by saying that the decision to restart the race was wrong, that it shouldn’t have happened, he’s really sorry about all this and the order of finish of the race would be the order the cars were in before the final restart.
So the guy who was third after the race re-started, Hunter-Reay, is the winner and Servia, who was leading when the last yellow was thrown, is the second-place finisher. Power, whose car is wrecked and on the hook, finishes fifth and Patrick, who started the mess by spinning out and was passed by who-knows-how-many-other-cars before the yellow comes out, stays sixth.
Confused? You betcha.
Right now, it’s difficult to say who won the race because Servia’s employer, Newman-Haas Racing, will undoubtedly appeal the ruling, as they should. So it could be Hunter-Reay, Servia and Dixon or Servia, Dixon and Hunter-Reay.
One thing’s for sure, however. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville finished fourth – either way. He started fourth and he finished fourth. He was up to second at one point and as far behind the leader as 12th but he battled back every time and it was probably one of his finest races since he started running with the IndyCar Series back in the spring.
He held his line, he passed cars and he didn’t let anybody intimidate him. On one restart, Ryan Briscoe tried to crowd him up the track and "Hinch" held fast, eventually forcing Briscoe to back off.
At 150 miles an hour, that takes serious intestinal fortitude.
Now, was it a good race, a mediocre race or a bad race? I must be honest: I don’t know. I suppose it was entertaining but I think the circus sideshow that it became put something of a damper on it (if you'll pardon the pun).
Once upon a time, you could watch cars go 150, 160 mph on a mile track and the leaders would duck in and out of traffic and go high or go low to make passes and you still see some of that these days but much of the time you see stupidity.
Where once you saw Teo Fabi carve through the field at Phoenix like a hot knife through butter, or Paul Tracy driving for Newman-Haas at Milwaukee and leaving everybody in his dust, now you see drivers you thought knew what they were doing cause accidents and then blame everybody else.
Dario Franchitti turned down on Takuma Sato during a restart and caused a crash that knocked him out of the race. The replays showed, again and again, Franchitti turning down into Sato.
Franchitti blamed Sato and even while looking at the replay on a monitor, continued to blame the other driver.
For some inexplicable reason, Sato said later that it was his fault. "I had something in my eye, I got too close to him," he said.
"I had something in my eye."
Did I really hear that?
(Goodyear, after watching replay after replay and hearing Franchitti deny responsibility, said Dario would change his mind, once he got home and took a day-later-look at the accident. We'll see.)
Tomas Scheckter goes high to pass Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan goes low to pass him on the inside. Kanaan drifts up into Andretti and then, after the inevitable crash that knocks all three of them out of the race, blames the other two drivers.
"What were they thinking?" he said. And I was thinking: "What were you thinking?"
As Dan Gurney said back in 1966, when everybody crashed while taking the green flag at the Indianapolis 500, "can’t people just drive along a little bit of straightaway?"
– Brian Barnhardt made the call at Edmonton last year that took a victory away from Helio Castroneves. He said Castroneves had blocked Will Power when, in fact, there was no block. Castroneves went nuts and had to be restrained.
As you can imagine, the officiating was the story of that race.
More often than not this year, officiating has been the story of IndyCar races. Sunday took the cake.
Stories about IndyCar races are supposed to be about the racing, not the officiating; about the racers, and not the officials.
Would the NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and so-on continue to employee officials whose incompetence has become the story rather than the game itself?
Not on your life, and it’s time IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard bit the bullet and got a new president of competition.
– I will have more to say about this in a future blog, but I was embarrassed to see the size of the turnout (you can’t call it a crowd) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday.
In a stadium that can hold more than 90,000 people, I would say maybe 10,000 people (and that’s being generous) were there.
This is the second speedway this year – Milwaukee being the other – where Bernard has been sucked into going. And the people who have his ear are after him to go back to Road America and Phoenix and I guarantee that they would be as disastrous as New Hampshire was Sunday.
The only way to save this series is to pick it up and shake it out and start to think completely and totally outside the box.
Anything less and you can kiss Indy car racing goodbye.
– Alex Tagliani made a spectacular exit from the race. He pulled into the pits and the back end of his car was on fire. His crew – with help from at least two others team – put it out but the car was too damaged to continue. Tag came in 19th.