Opinion: Brian Barnhart Is Digging Indy Car Into A Deeper Hole
The easiest thing to do as a fan of any sport is to question the officiating.
Both officiating philosophy and the calls become a hot topic of debate and frustration after questionably officiated events. Ultimately, the difficult decisions lie squarely upon the shoulders of one person or a very small group of people.
Consistently weak officiating for well over a year now has stunted Indy Car’s growth. Sunday’s race at New Hampshire was no exception. While oval racing does not require the same kinds of calls as road or street course races, rain may have proven to be Brian Barnhart’s final undoing – drivers and fans unanimously calling for his immediate termination.
During Sunday’s race, race control rightly called three cautions to wait out the weather in order to assess track conditions and allow them to improve before restarts. The third such caution, which the race “officially” ended under, is the one that drew the ire of drivers and fans alike.
The track was allegedly deemed fit to restart the race for an eight-lap sprint to the checkered flag. Danica Patrick spun her tires - and her car - causing a multi-car pileup as the cars approached the impending green. The race was soon thereafter red flagged and subsequently never restarted. Drivers immediately responded stating that the conditions were too poor to race under.
Fans jumped on their heroes’ bandwagon. Twitter and facebook instantly lit up with posts by fans and drivers calling for Brian Barnhart’s head. Brian’s response, while taking responsibility for the poor call, called the information he obtained (or not) from pit officials and track observers into question. He claims that pit officials were not calling race control and that the observers had deemed the track fit to restart. Therein lie(s) the problem(s.)
Waiting for the process of a driver to call his manager, and for the manager to grab his pit official, and the pit official to call to race control is too archaic and passive to effectively manage a major league motor sport. Indy Car race control SHOULD have an instant messaging system whereby an official can contact a team manager to actively obtain driver input. Call three drivers. Make your decision. No restart. Problem solved.
Although the observers/corner workers have their value in communicating to drivers and officials, their input should NOT be the basis for turning cars loose on a high-speed oval. That decision lies with the experts – officials who attend and manage every race of the season.
Brian Barnhart has continued to make questionable calls and put the blame on anyone but himself. Al Unser, Jr. has a role in Indy Car race control and has been “the face” when their calls have come into question.
Barnhart has continued to dodge the difficult questions and prove that his reign as Indy Car Race Director is over.