Joe Jennings, Grand-Am Correspondent
Watkins Glen, N. Y. – Starworks Motorsport reached its high and low concurrently during the recent Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. By virtue of winning the inaugural Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at the Brickyard, the team came home with the North American Endurance Championship, but it was a bittersweet outcome for the Peter Baron team.
Flying the Starworks colors, IZOD IndyCar Series star Sebastien Bourdais and Alex Popow raced to victory after an identical Starworks entry of Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio was allegedly run off the course in the late going.
Dalziel and Potolicchio were not only chasing the coveted NAEC championship but the Rolex Sports Car Series drivers’ championship as well. As the Brickyard race wound down, Dalziel’s car came together with that of hard-charger Juan Pablo Montoya, sending Dalziel off the course and thwarting his run for the championship. He finished down a lap in seventh place, setting off a swirl of complaints and finger pointing by Baron and Potolicchio.
Incensed with Montoya’s driving, the pair aired their concerns with Grand-Am officials, who agreed to review the situation. Also, it was rumored that the Starworks team planned to skip this weekend’s Rolex race at Watkins Glen in protest of the Brickyard outcome. In the end, Starworks filed two late entries, but Potolicchio opted not to compete.
For Starworks this weekend, Dalziel is paired with Lucas Luhr in one car and in the second entry, Bourdais is co-driving with Popow.
“I never said I wasn’t coming, just Enzo’s (Potolicchio) not coming,” Baron said on Friday. “Grand-Am knows that I object strongly to what happened at Indianapolis. I worked four days solid to show that there was a yellow (flag). Everybody but Grand-Am has acknowledged that there was a yellow. Race rules say racing incidents are not protestable, and they stuck to their guns for that.
"They said they reviewed it for over 100 man-hours and reviewed it as if it was a green (flag), which I agree if it was a green, it was a racing incident and shame on Ryan (Dalziel) for that, but we have the data to prove there was a yellow, which is the only reason Montoya got next to him. That was the whole difference.”
According to Baron, Potolicchio is done with the series, and he went on to say that in racing balls and strikes are called, and sometimes a ball is called and sometimes a strike. And it seems too many strikes are being called against his team. “When Enzo sneezes, we get a penalty,” stated Baron. “The Ganassi cars take out half the field -- no penalties. There has to be consistency in the officiating and Enzo is protesting that.”
Although absent from the scene, Potolicchio continues to support the Starworks car piloted by Dalziel and the Floridian’s run for the championship.
Dalziel said he is still vexed with the Brickyard results but is thrilled to continue with his run for the championship. “Since Sunday, I have been hired and fired twice, but we are here and that is the important thing,” he said. “Peter (Baron) and I are just trying to figure out how to get our car back in the points, which are important to the team and me.” The accomplished driver said he understands and supports Enzo’s position and thanked the latter for fielding a Starworks car this weekend.
I believe in karma and the racing god’s.
Concluded Baron, “I believe in karma and the racing god’s. Everything we are doing with the No. 8 car (Dalziel and Luhr) is going to give us a lot of momentum. And with the racing god’s, there’s going to be something coming against the No. 01 car (the Ganassi entry of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas),” saying karma will take its course.
In a prepared-statement regarding Baron’s concerns, Grand-Am’s Richard Buck, the managing director of competition, said, “First and foremost, I and everyone in GRAND-AM's competition department understand the gravity of the situation that occurred in the Brickyard Grand Prix and we respect Peter Baron's opinion -- as we respect the opinions of all our competitors. Suffice to say we've taken this matter very seriously. Approximately 100 collective man hours went into reviewing the incident between the No. 02 car and the No. 8 car.
"During races we use all available resources in Race Control to make Race Procedure calls. It's important to note that Race Control at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is state of the art, embraced by F1, NASCAR, GRAND-AM, IndyCar and Moto GP.
"On judgment calls we have a minimum of three officials weigh in on the calls. If the incident is deemed non- conclusive/non-definitive by the majority -- then there is no call; it's deemed a racing incident.
"We reviewed the data from all our resources in Race Control at Indianapolis and beyond and came to the same conclusion -- that the contact between the No. 02 and No. 8 was a ‘Racing Incident’ and found no indication of intentional contact.
"After reviewing all (including post-race) data we unanimously concluded that it was a Racing Incident and the Race Procedure call was correct. "Additionally, per the GRAND-AM rule book – Race Procedure calls are not considered for protests.”
Starting with Saturday evening’s Continental Tire 200 at Watkins Glen International, four races remain in the Rolex Sports Car Series season with Pruett and Rojas leading Dalziel by 11 points in the run for the coveted championship and an intense battle is anticipated.