Former ALMS and IndyCar race director is back on familiar turf.
Beaux Barfield is the new race director for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – technically new, at least. He spent five years in a similar capacity at the American Le Mans Series, but before the ALMS and rand-Am series merged into the TUDOR Championship, Barfield joined the IndyCar series as race director there.
That series ended its season in August, and Barfield announced on September 5 that he would be joining the TUDOR Championship, with his first race being last Saturday’s Lone Star Le Mans race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. With 51 cars on the track, there was some controversy with multiple penalties, and incidents when teams thought other teams should be penalized, but weren’t – but that’s the lot in life of being a race director.
It was a bit of a homecoming for Barfield, not only because he was returning to sports cars, but because he’s a native Texan. We caught up with him after the race.
Q: It’s a new job, but it has to be at least partly familiar, because of your time with the ALMS, right?
A: It’s kind of equal parts new beginning and homecoming. So much that has changed, obviously it’s an important time for sports car racing on the heels of the merger, but there are so many familiar faces of team owners and team managers and drivers that it’s great to be back.
Q: What’s the biggest difference between this job and IndyCar?
A: I’ve always said that race control – the actual managing and running the competition itself – is a much more difficult task in sports car racing, or multiclass racing I should say, than a single marque series like IndyCar. There’s so much to get your head around, so much to be on top of, and there were a lot of procedures that were implemented near the end of my time at the ALMS, and have continued to evolve after the merger, to ensure that all the classes get a fair shake at having a good race.
Q: Any changes we are likely to see between now and Petit Le Mans, such as some additional Balance of Performance rulings?
A: Luckily for me, my job entails the on-track activity only. I don’t have to get involved in the Balance of Performance issues.
Q: A few changes in the 2015 schedule – are you happy with what you see?
A: Absolutely. I like the fact that we’re in front of the fans for 10 or 11 months out of the year, and that it’s spread out and manageable for the teams. We’re going to some great venues, and I’m looking forward to it.
Q: How did you get into this part of motorsports?
A: I grew up around racing, and I was actually a driver when I was younger. I competed in karts and a lot of open wheel formula cars before, like a lot of drivers, I hit that financial dead end. I always loved racing, and I didn’t get pushed out of it, I just was pushed into a direction where I could stay in it. I did a lot of coaching, a lot of teaching in racing schools. It allowed me to cross paths with some people who were involved in officiating, and they thought I might be a welcome part of that team. I ended up getting kind of sucked into that, and I guess the rest is history.
Q: Where did your racing career begin?
A: I’m from Houston, Texas. I grew up going to races with my dad, but to find more opportunity, I moved to Atlanta and started teaching at what would become the Panoz Racing School. That was back in 1992, when I was 20. I was always looking for opportunity, and found ways to stay involved in racing.
Q: From your perspective, how do you think the ALMS and Grand-Am merger has gone this first year?
A: As an outsider looking in, and knowing what a tall order it was to put everything together, I think the series has done a great job from essentially every angle to get these cars interacting properly on track – to make it make sense for the competitors, and put a good product in front of the fans.
Q: There was some question at the outset that the NASCAR-style, track-based safety and emergency response plan could be improved. Are you satisfied with how the TUDOR Championship is handling that?
A: There’s a great system in place from our track services department and the medical interaction and interface that we have at every event we go to – it’s actually communicated and established well in advance of arriving at any circuit. In terms of hos that positions us from a safety standpoint and from a responsiveness standpoint, I couldn’t be more satisfied.
Q: During the brief off-season, do you expect any major changes from your position, or mostly just refining what you have now?
A: Definitely more along the lines of refinement. I think it’s important to communicate, through the rule book, my opinions on how the racing should be officiated. I don’t think there will be anything in terms of wholesale changes, it will be more refining and fine tuning. With the off-season being as short as it is, a priority is getting the rule book turned around and in the competitors’ hands early enough to plan appropriately for the 2015 season.