IndyCar announced late yesterday the makeup of its panel to hear appeals of the results of last Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and it’s very much a disappointment.
Instead of asking, say, a retired judge from the Indianapolis area to adjudicate, Brian Barnhart appointed three people – one of whom has a conflict of interest and two others connected with an organization that was fired for incompetence by the previous CEO of the Indy Racing League, Tony George.
The three-member panel will hear appeals the week of Aug. 22 from Newman-Haas Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing of the order of finish of Sunday’s race that was restarted when it was raining and in which there was a serious crash.
At the end of the day, Barnhart, as president of competition for IndyCar, had ruled that the restart should never happened and the final finishing results would be the order that the cars and drivers were in before the restart.
Both Newman-Haas and Target Chip Ganassi maintain that their drivers were ahead when the race was eventually stopped, and not in second and third places as ruled.
The three people are:
Jerry Gappens: Gappens is the Executive Vice President and General Manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Gappens spent 15 years working in public relations, marketing and events at Charlotte Motor Speedway, most recently serving as Senior Vice President. He also worked with National Speed Sport News and served as a pit reporter for ABC's coverage of the Indianapolis 500 as well as various CART, NASCAR and IROC races.
Rollie Helmling: Helmling currently serves as Director of Automotive Business Development and the Governor's Motorsports Initiative for Indiana Economic Development Corp. He is the former president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Auto Club (USAC) and former team owner for drivers such as Jeff Gordon, John Andretti and Tony Stewart. Helmling serves on the Rules and Appeals Committee for the World of Outlaws racing series.
Jeff Stoops: Stoops currently serves as Chairman of the Board for USAC. He is a former car owner whose achievements include the 1987 and 1988 USAC National Sprint Car Owner championships. Stoops is an IndyCar team sponsor through his company, Stoops Freightliner.
Now, on the surface, those guys look like good choices. But they’re not.
Gappens was in charge of the facility, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where this fiasco took place. He has a conflict of interest and shouldn’t have been selected. He cannot rule on something in which he was involved, even if the link appears tenuous. It was his place where this happened.
Helmling raced with USAC for years and then ran it. Stoops is the current chairman of USAC. For those with short memories, George fired USAC for incompetence after very shoddy officiating of the very first IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997. (That was the famous night when A.J. Foyt socked Arie Luyendyk in Victory Lane.)
USAC officiates short track races. Anybody who is familiar with short-track racing knows that whenever anything happens, the order of the lineup for a restart or the order of finish if a race has to be stopped for any reason always, always, always reverts to the order of finish of the previous complete lap – and guess what this argument is all about?
Talk about cookin’ the books before the hearing.
Sure, the panel could surprise, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Having said all this, the person that Tony George put in charge of the IRL after he gave USAC the boot is Brian Barnhart, whose officiating – particularly near the end of last year and at many of the races this year – has been, shall we say, erratic, if not downright horrible.
And do you remember what happened the last time they held one of these kangaroo courts? It was in 2002, after Paul Tracy was robbed of winning the Indianapolis 500 by Guess Who? And then, in the end, he and his team weren’t even allowed to appeal.
I guess, in a perverse way, we’ve advanced.