16 August 2011
Barnhart discusses controversial call
Barnhart pointed out that even Johnny Rutherford, driving the pace car, hadn't objected to the restart: "Johnny at that point in time hadn't relayed either that it was a bad decision to go at that point in time."
Asked where the system had broken down, Barnhart suggested that race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay might have nailed it. "I think Ryan said it best ... I don't think people really understand how little water it takes or how little moisture it takes to have an adverse effect on the ability of these cars to perform.
"I have great trust and respect for the people that we have out there ... There's a thousand times they've made these calls, and they're right 99.9 percent of the time," he insisted. "When you're up in an enclosed room, glass in there, you're not outside, you don't know, you're counting on information from other people, it can kind of put you in a Catch-22 position, and you're counting on a lot of information."
"I'm learning as we go along how difficult it is up in race control," contributed a rueful Al Unser Jr., the driver member of the race officials. "We had several tough decisions up there that we had to call [especially about moisture.] I don't know how many times I ran outside to see how the moisture was, because Brian's asking around the track, you know, of the observers and he's asking me to go outside. And I went up on the roof. And I went out back several times to figure out, you know, has enough moisture fallen to shut it down?
"It was a tough decision, tough call, especially the last one we were getting information that it was good to go."
Barnhart admitted that he and the rest of race control had held the pressure to deliver to the fans, both at the track and watching on television: "We could have tooled around behind the pace car and just thrown the checquered and the yellow at the same time at 225 and we would have made a lot of fans angry in the race grandstands," he pointed out. "Based on the information we had, we were going to try and put on a show for them. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the wrong way to do that."
Speaking at the same post-race press conference on Sunday, third-placed Scott Dixon had some sympathy for Barnhart and the race officials, agreeing that the conditions out on track had been "kind of confusing."
"It had dried up. It did start raining on the last lap coming to the green," he said. "It is a tough call. I wouldn't want to be the one trying to decide."
"It's a tough one," agreed race runner-up Oriol Servia. "They actually asked me. I said it's raining harder, I would wait another lap or something. But it's tough for them, too. It's five laps to the end, they're trying to get it.
"It's hard to guess how wet it is. I don't want to throw everybody under the bus. It's tough to decide. They asked, 'Hey, what do you think, should we restart?' I don't know what to answer," he admitted. "20 seconds before [the green flag], it started to rain again. It was a difficult call, I think."
Servia was still smarting at another of race control's decisions - to ignore the final 'aborted' restart and the ensuing laps under yellow. Seria had passed Hunter-Reay for the lead in the brief seconds under green, but lost the win when race control took the decision to roll back the race.
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