16 August 2011
Barnhart discusses controversial call
"It was an error ... and clearly my fault," said IndyCar president of competition Brian Barnhart, talking about being "sick to my stomach" when he realised he had made a huge mistake.
The man under fire from all sides after the end of the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was most definitely the President of Competition Operations, Brian Barnhart, who had been serving as race director on Sunday.
He attended the post-race press interviews following the race, and tried to explain what had happened during the afternoon, what had gone wrong, why the decision had been made to restart in the first place - and what he had felt when he realised that it had resulted in arguably IndyCar's biggest mis-call in recent years.
"Where to start? It was obviously a challenging day for us out there from the get-go," summarised Barnhart. "Some of the more difficult calls you ever have to make from a race control point of view ... It would be one thing if it rained hard, your decision's a pretty easy one to make. But when you get calls from track safety and observer posts around the racetrack that report light moisture, the tough decision is to make that call whether you continue with the event or not.
"That's been the most difficult and challenging thing, because no matter what, our number one priority in every decision we make is safety," he said, accepting that he was "responsible for the safety of those 26 drivers out there, every time you go and give them a track condition, they're counting on you to make the right decision."
He conceded again that they hadn't done that with the decision to restart. "With the attempted restart, we made the wrong one. And that's one of those things that just makes you feel sick to your stomach, when you do it, because you know after the fact, of course, that you chose poorly ... When you've made the wrong one and it exposes them to a safety risk factor, no one feels worse about it than I do. Secondary to that comes the fact that you tore up some race cars and spent some money that you shouldn't have done.
"It was an error on race control standpoint, and clearly my fault," he concluded.
Barnhart explained that he was never talking direct to drivers, team owners or team strategists because it logistically wasn't possible in the time available: "We were frankly running out of laps. If you spent a lot of time trying to switch radio channels and talk to a bunch of people, you're counting laps in a hurry. We've got a pace car out there, we have track safety, we've got observers. And we trust and count on them."
Instead Barnhart explained that all feedback is filtered through the appointed pit tech liasons. When drivers were heard complaining over their radios, they weren't talking directly to race control: "They're talking back to their team managers or their strategist back in the pits, and they would have to relay that to the pit tech and pit tech would have to relay it up to race control, he explained. "That's the process that never got to us.
"We hadn't received anything from pit tech guys," he insisted. "We never had a single call from a pit tech ... We had not received any objections from any of the pit techs, from any that were assigned to the cars on the racetrack saying the driver of the #59 or the driver of the #5 or the driver of the #7 vehemently objects and says it's too wet to go.
"We didn't have anybody saying that. So combined with a lack of information from people saying we shouldn't go, combined with all of our track safety people saying we should go and all the observers around say the track is still raceable and going, you make the decision based on that information."
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