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New Hampshire results protest denied
24 August 2011
Ryan Hunter-Reay's win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway has been upheld by an independent panel appointed by IndyCar's President of Competition and Operations, Brian Barnhart.
The results had been protested by Newman/Haas Racing and Target Chip Ganassi Racing, with both teams asserting that their drivers - Oriol Servia and Scott Dixon respectively - had managed to overtake Hunter-Reay in the brief ill-fated final restart before the race quickly returned to yellow and then to a red flag and chequered finish.
“After hearing the excellent presentations by each of the participants in the protest hearing and after reviewing and being sympathetic with each of their positions, the Protest Panel was unanimous in its decision," said the signed statement from the appointed panel announcing that the protest had been denied.
The ruling came down to whether or not Barnhart as race director had the ability under the rules to make the decision to 'roll back' the final positions to the point before the final momentary green flag came out, after Barnhart admitted that his decision to attempt a restart in the first place had been a mistake given the wet conditions.
After confirming that Barnhart did indeed have "the authority under [IndyCar rules] to render the decision that was made," the Protest Panel's statement continued: "We also agree that his decision to abort the restart and set the finishing positions that existed before the attempted restart to be an exercise of reasonable discretion.
"The protests as to Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Inc. d/b/a Target Chip Ganassi Racing car number 9 and Newman/Haas Racing, LLC car number 2 are hereby denied."
Because of the potential conflict of interest having to rule on a protest against his own ruling on the day, Barnhart had used provision under the IndyCar rulebook to step aside from adjudicating on the protest and instead appointed an independent panel consisting of Jerry Gappens, the general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway; Rollie Helmling, former president and chief executive officer of the United States Auto Club (USAC); and Jeff Stoops, Chairman of the Board for USAC and whose company Stoops Freightliner is a current team sponsor in IndyCar.
"We feel that we gave the panel proof that Oriol was the winner of the event when the checkered flag ended the race," said Newman/Haas Racing team owner Carl Haas after the decision was announced. "Naturally, we are very disappointed in the panel's ruling that five laps of the race be struck from the results but we appreciated the opportunity to state our position."
"I am very proud of Newman/Haas Racing and how they proved that the restart procedure was correct and that we were leading when the yellow came out," added Servia. "The panel resolution doesn't deny that. Their resolution states that Brian Barnhart has the power by the rulebook to make certain decisions at his discretion, and that is what happened," he pointed out.
Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti - who had been invited to participate in the protest hearing because of the team's obvious interest in the outcome - was delighted that his driver's win had been ratified. "We are very pleased with the decision given by the committee on the New Hampshire race finish," he said. "We at Andretti Autosport believed all along that Ryan was the winner of the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 and this decision verifies his victory."
"I have always felt that we won the race in New Hampshire," said Hunter-Reay. "The conditions were not ideal that day. And a proper decision needed to be made."
Andretti said he was pleased the matter had been resolved ahead of back-to-back road races in Sonoma and Baltimore, starting this weekend. "We can now focus on getting back to victory lane at those races," he said.
The ruling can still be protested by the two teams up until 5pm local time on Friday, August 26.
Even if the protest had been successful, its scope had been limited to consider only the top three positions and would not have affected drivers such as Danica Patrick or Will Power who crashed at the final restart and could have lost a number of positions and points if the entire final running order had stood to be rewritten.
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