IRL: Indianapolis 500 appeal press conference, part I

86th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference With: Tony George Wednesday, July 3, 2002 Part 1 of 2 Tony George: Good morning and welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today we will hear from Tony George, president and CEO of the Indy Racing ...

86th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference
With: Tony George

Wednesday, July 3, 2002
Part 1 of 2

Tony George: Good morning and welcome to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Today we will hear from Tony George, president and CEO of the Indy Racing League, who will announce his decision on Team Green's appeal of the results of the 2002 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

Tony will have a brief statement concerning his findings. A news release summarizing those findings is being distributed now. After his statement, he'll take a few general questions, leaving the detailed questions to the report, which will be available to you outside the door on the table at the conclusion of the question-and-answer period.

Ladies and gentlemen, Tony George.

Tony George: Thank you, Fred, and thanks for coming this morning. My decision on the Team Green appeal will be handed out to you, as Fred said, later this morning. But I first wanted to make a couple of very brief comments.

First of all, I want to thank both Team Green and Penske Racing for their professionalism during this process. They both gave very thorough presentations at the hearing, and I carefully considered all the information they presented in reaching my decision. They were each given a copy of my decision earlier this morning. I have chosen to present the facts and the reasons for my decision for everyone to see by making the decision available to the public in a very detailed report delivered both to you here today and to be later distributed on our Web site, this in light of the high public interest.

After hearing all of the evidence, I have determined that Helio Castroneves is the winner of the 2002 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. As explained in the detailed written decision, I have denied the appeal by Team Green for two basic reasons. The first reason is that the decision made by the officials as to the order of the cars at the commencement of the yellow caution period is not subject to protest or appeal under the Indy Racing League Rule Book; and the wisdom of that rule was evident in the proceedings. Specifically, Rule 11.2.d of the Rule Book states that the decision whether a car was passed during a yellow caution period, or any other matter which involves the exercise of judgment by race officials, may not be protested or appealed, and the decision of the officials is final and binding.

The reason for this rule is simple. I have spent a great amount of time in Race Control in every one of the 64 Indy Racing League events. Race Control must determine the order of the cars on the racetrack upon the commencement of a yellow caution period during any race. That can only be done by visual observation and by viewing television monitors in Race Control. They do not have the benefit of instant replay or telemetry data. A call must be made quickly for the purposes of driver safety.

There were five caution periods during the 2002 Indianapolis 500, a total of 51 so far this year in the Indy Racing League. Each involves a decision where every car in the field should be placed at the commencement of the caution period. It would be completely unworkable to allow each such decision to be appealed.

While that decision resolves the issues, I have, nevertheless, exercised my right under the Rule Book to consider whether I believed the judgment of the officials was correct, recognizing that I have the benefit of hindsight the officials did not have.

After reviewing all of the information presented, it was clear that the decision by the officials was, indeed, correct. Drivers and teams are instructed to obey radio commands of Race Control and to cease racing as soon as they receive notice of a yellow caution, whether through the radio instructions from Race Control, the dashboard yellow lights, the yellow track lights, the yellow flags, or the red flag with the yellow cross positioned at pit entrance which signifies a pit closure in the event of a caution period. It is clear that several of these signals were sent before the car 26 passed the car No. 3. The data presented shows that Helio Castroneves was leading Paul Tracy at the time Race Control called for the yellow by radio at the time that the red flag with the yellow cross was displayed, at the time that the yellow dashboard light system was activated; and -- since I don't have the last page of my notes -- (Laughter) -- at the time that the 3 car received the signal for the yellow light.

So in conclusion, the appeal of Team Green has been denied. Again, there is a very detailed report, which will be handed out shortly. I think that many of your questions will be answered after you review the detail of the report.

And having said that, I will take a few very general questions at this time in the interest of brevity.

Q Tony, if the Rule Book said that this was not to be allowed under the appeals process, why did you decide to hear the appeal?

George: As I said, given the circumstances, given the fact that the Indianapolis 500 is the largest single-day sporting event, largest motorsports event, we felt that it was important to allow the process to be played out. And given the fact that Brian (Barnhart) made the decision to hear the protest, you know, I felt that it was important then to continue with the appeal.

Q To follow up on John's question, just so we understand: If the evidence had shown otherwise, that Tracy was ahead, are you suggesting that because the way the rule is stated in the Rule Book, that a protest -- that this sort of thing can't be challenged, that you couldn't overturn it anyway?

George: If the evidence that was reviewed, but based on Brian's determination at the time, if he would have called the race the other way, I would have to stand by the rule as it's written based on whatever the evidence may have been.

Q You're saying this is -- you're saying this is not something that really can be protested, the order of the cars at the yellow, cannot be --

George: The officials' call for either a call for caution or a judgment call cannot be protested.

Q Right. So getting back to John's question, what was this all about if it couldn't be overturned?

George: The protest was heard and subsequently appealed, and we followed the procedures for appeal. Hearing all of the evidence was something that we felt we should give the teams an opportunity to present their case. I'm not sure that it would have changed the outcome at all, in any event. But, again, after reviewing the rules and in the interest of the parties concerned, we just felt that it was important to continue with the appeal.

Q Did Brian make a mistake, then, in allowing the protest in the first place?

George: I don't believe so. I think, again, for the reasons stated earlier, that it's the Indianapolis 500. He did allow the protest, which was denied and subsequently there was an appeal by Team Green. That while a decision could have been made, I suppose, at that time to just disallow, it was our feeling that we should review the evidence that they suggested that they had available to them that would possibly refute the posted results.


Tony George part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Paul Tracy , Tony George
Teams Team Penske