Edwards "respectfully disagrees" with Rossi’s Indy 500 penalty

Rob Edwards, Andretti Autosport COO and strategist for Alexander Rossi believes the penalty that effectively ended his driver’s chances of Indy 500 glory last Sunday was not deserved and also too harsh.

Edwards "respectfully disagrees" with Rossi’s Indy 500 penalty

Edwards admitted on Monday evening he was still feeling “pretty sore” about the general underperformance of Andretti Autosport-Honda in the 104th running of the iconic race, especially after looking so strong in qualifying.

In particular he was unhappy with IndyCar’s punishment for the team’s leading runner on the day, Rossi, which saw him sent to the back of the pack for an unsafe release on pitroad.

Rossi, who had started the race from ninth on the grid, rose to second just before quarter distance and at half distance he started exchanging the lead back and forth with Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda. The pair were working together, taking it in turns to run second and save fuel in each other’s slipstream, while still easing away from their nearest pursuers – first the Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet of Pato O’Ward and then eventual winner Takuma Sato of Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda.

However on Lap 122 the field came under caution for Alex Palou’s crash, and once pitlane opened on Lap 124, a total of 23 cars hit pitlane. Rossi emerged from his pitbox into the path of Sato – who was pitted two boxes behind Rossi – and the pair made contact. IndyCar Race Control punished the Andretti Autosport #27 team for an unsafe release, and decreed he should restart the race from the rear of the field.

The 2016 Indy winner was left bitterly disappointed following his crash 14 laps after the race went back to green, and once he'd been checked and released from the IMS infield care center, Rossi said his car was not set up to be running so deep in the pack, he failed to understand the nature of the penalty and he believed he had the car to win. 

Edwards told Motorsport.com: “I do believe that any contact in pitlane, for the safety of all the pitcrew members, needs to be taken extremely seriously. But as I said to Race Control when I went to see them afterward, the thing that gets missed is that at the point at which Alex is motioned out, the lane was clear – but there are delays.

"There’s a delay between when the driver is sent to when he starts to move; then when he starts to move, what first gear he’s got will define how quickly he accelerates. And if Alex’s front wheel had touched Takuma’s rear wheel I’d feel one way about it, but since Takuma’s front wheel touched our rear wheel, I feel another way about it.

“Then, even if you accept that OK, there was an issue, something that needed to be punished, when you look at the penalty guidelines for unsafe release from pitstops, there are punishments A, B and C depending on severity. A is to give up a position, B is restart from the back of the field, and C is a drive-through penalty. And with the understanding of those points I just mentioned – the timeline – I feel that if Race Control had to do anything, then making us drop behind Sato for the restart would have been a more appropriate penalty. The way the cars are now, when you’re put to the back of the pack, you can’t do anything significant.”

At the tail end of the lead lap, Rossi was classified 21st for the Lap 131 restart and although he briefly made spectacular progress and climbed to 17th, he then remained mired there and ultimately understeered into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 144.

On the subject of whether he felt the stewards had not grasped the severity of their penalty to Rossi, Edwards replied: “You know, I actually think it’s great that we have stewards who were drivers, but should there be more balance among the stewards, not just seeing it from a driving point of view? I don’t know. But I respectfully disagree with their decision on this occasion, and they know that.

“At the end of the day, I can’t change it. But on the pitbox, we have no ability to argue or discuss matters with Race Control at the time. They warn you when they’re reviewing incidents and then they pass a judgment. To me, that’s the unfortunate part of the current system: we have zero ability to have any discussion about it or provide any additional input, thoughts or whatever else.”

Asked if he had seen a better stewarding system in U.S. open-wheel over the 28 years he has been involved, Edwards replied: “I think it’s hard to say ‘better’. Because I think generally Race Control do an awesome job these days: it’s night and day compared with how it used to be.

“But there are certain decisions that can be black-’n’-white because of a timing line or whatever, and there are other things that are subjective, and any time there’s a decision to be made with subjective reasoning, it’s always going to be open to different interpretations and points of view, right?

“Anyway, like I say, there’s nothing we can do to change what’s happened, so we move on. That’s the beauty of racing, isn’t it? The extreme highs and the lows. Painful end to last weekend – but the good news is we have a couple of races this weekend.”

Kanaan rues missed Top 10 finish at Indy

Previous article

Kanaan rues missed Top 10 finish at Indy

Next article

McLaughlin listened in on Penske Indy 500 radio

McLaughlin listened in on Penske Indy 500 radio
Load comments

About this article

Series IndyCar
Event Indy 500
Author David Malsher-Lopez
Colton Herta – America's next racing hero Prime

Colton Herta – America's next racing hero

Last Sunday, Colton Herta demolished his IndyCar opposition in the second round of the season. David Malsher-Lopez explains why Andretti Autosport’s youngest ace bears all the hallmarks of becoming the country’s next homegrown motorsport hero.

Apr 29, 2021
How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival? Prime

How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival?

Last Sunday, Alex Palou delivered his first IndyCar victory on his Chip Ganassi Racing debut. Is the young Spaniard going to become his legendary teammate Scott Dixon’s biggest title threat? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

Apr 21, 2021
Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call Prime

Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call

The fight for supremacy in the NTT IndyCar Series will be as intense as ever. David Malsher-Lopez is your guide to the main contenders and six intriguing sub-plots.

Apr 15, 2021
Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight? Prime

Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight?

With Patricio O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist leading its line-up, 2021 could be the year Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet joins the IndyCar elite, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

Feb 21, 2021
Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team Prime

Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team

Over 37 seasons, Dale Coyne has run no fewer than 80 Indy car drivers – including himself! Ahead of his first season running Romain Grosjean, we asked Coyne to pick the best 10 drivers ever to compete for him. By David Malsher-Lopez.

Feb 10, 2021
Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed Prime

Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed

Last Friday, Marco Andretti announced he is withdrawing from fulltime IndyCar racing. David Malsher-Lopez explains how this third-gen racer was a puzzle in the car, but a straight shooter off-track.

Jan 19, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

Dec 28, 2020
Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car? Prime

Is the mighty McLaren M16 the greatest ever Indy car?

When founder Bruce McLaren died in June 1970, his team could have folded. Instead, his loyal band rallied to produce a string of winners - including an Indy car game-changer that won three Indy 500s in six years.

Dec 23, 2020