Barnhart back to Race Director role

Our Anne Proffit looks at the appointment of Brian Barnhart back to the directors role in IndyCar.

Barnhart back to Race Director role
Dan Wheldon Memorial and Victory Circle unveiling ceremony: President of Race Operations of IndyCar Brian Barnhart
Dan Wheldon Memorial and Victory Circle unveiling ceremony: President of Race Operations of IndyCar Brian Barnhart
IZOD IndyCar Series New Engine Strategy Team, Bill Looney, Eddie Gossage, Tony Cotman, Brian Barnhart, Gil De Ferran, Randy Bernard
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Brian Barnhart
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A.J. Foyt IV receives instruction from Brian Barnhart
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Brian Barnhart gives Graham Rahal instructions before qualifying
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It sure looks like INDYCAR spent the long, cold winter in Indianapolis like Rip Van Winkle: in hibernation.

Showing that it can’t possibly move forward without going back a million light years, INDYCAR has, once again decided to put its officiating trust in one Brian Barnhart. 

INDYCAR’s release said that Barnhart, who serves as vice president of competition, has been named Race Director to lead a three-steward system implemented in 2014. Barnhart was one regular, every-race member of the three-steward panel for the entire 2014 season; he was INDYCAR’s Race Director from 1997-2011.

HIs job, as vice president of competition is to oversee the Race Control staff, the sporting regulations of the rulebook, the Holmatro Safety Team and medical personnel, security and INDYCAR timing and scoring departments. 

“The technological improvements we’ve made in Race Control have expanded the amount of information available to us,” Barnhart said. “The additional cameras, the replay system and assistance from other stewards provide us with additional tools to do our job better. I’m excited about this opportunity and look forward to doing it again.”

The new system allows any one of the three stewards to call for a review of on-track action, deliberating on violations using all the above-mentioned resources. Only after deliberation are any penalties called; severity is determined by the triumvirate.

Was it the right choice?

I, for one am very disappointed in this appointment. One would think Barnhart has enough on his plate to take on these added responsibilities; he ruled Race Control last year and essentially forced Beaux Barfield to seek alternate employment.

Known to the series’ remaining fans as TGBB (The Great Brian Barnhart), this is the same man who officiously asks every Indy car driver to “give me four good ones” at Indianapolis 500 qualifications (every time they go out). Not just this man’s orders at Indianapolis make him a horrid choice to lead Race Control, but his overall stance toward officiating puts the Verizon IndyCar Series at further risk of losing everything it has - not that it’s much anymore.

“The [three-steward] process allows the Race Director to focus on running the race

Derrick Walker

As Michael Andretti so aptly put it at New Hampshire in 2011, when Barnhart authorized green-flag running in the rain - on an oval circuit, Andretti said “This is the worst officiating ever.” That was the same race where Will Power gave Barnhart the double bird for his horrid officiating that essentially ruined Power’s title hopes when he crashed on the restart.

Barnhart drew imaginary lines in the track for passing opportunities and has arbitrarily issued penalties to one driver yet let others slide for the same transgressions. He has infuriated other drivers - not just Power - with his arbitrary moves. It looked like he was taking over Race Control midway through the 2014 season, as situations were addressed in a manner similar to the way he officiated prior to 2012.

Derrick Walker, INDYCAR president of competition and and operations, toed the company line in stating, “The [three-steward] process allows the Race Director to focus on running the race, without the double-duty of reviewing multiple replays and simultaneously trying to make a call.

“In terms of determining penalties, our process defines that a majority vote amongst the three stewards is required, which ensures a jury-like process. Last year,” he stated, “we found that this was a fair system when making difficult judgment calls.”, without the double-duty of reviewing multiple replays and simultaneously trying to make a call.

“In terms of determining penalties, our process defines that a majority vote amongst the three stewards is required, which ensures a jury-like process. Last year,” he stated, “we found that this was a fair system when making difficult judgment calls.”

Even before INDYCAR made its news known officially, the series’ remaining fans weighed in on Twitter. “I don’t want it to fail, I want it to flourish,” one said. “I’m not sure how that is possible with moves like this.” Another said, “Kill and rebuild with new ownership.” Another weighed in, “LOL, tell that to Mark Miles. He won’t and will never care about what fans have to say.” 

Social media sound off

Comments on Facebook ran from “What???” to “You’ve got to be joking????” to “The beginning of the end”, “Not this shit again,” “Let that sink in” with an appropriate photo of a sink and “I just have to shake my head.” And this was all stated an hour before the release was given to general media - Associated Press, NBC Sports, ESPN and local outlets were advised well in advance.

We’ve all been told, over the years, that leopards don’t change their spots as a simile for people not adjusting their perceptions as time goes on. It’s hard to believe that the old/new Race Director’s three-steward panel make-up won’t reflect Barnhart’s desire to officiate as he always has. Were there no other viable candidates available to make democratic decisions or have Miles, Walker and Co. decided that old news is good news for them, if not for their shrinking fan-base?

 

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