29 January 2015
IndyCar: Barnhart returns as series race director
Brian Barnhart will return to the role of IndyCar race director in 2015, a position he previously held from 1997 until 2011.
The Verizon IndyCar Series has confirmed that vice president of competition Brian Barnhart will take over the role of race director for the 2015 season, returning him to the role that he held up until the end of 2011.
"We believe that based on his extensive experience in Race Control, combined with the three-steward system, Brian Barnhart is a good fit as IndyCar race director," said Derrick Walker, IndyCar's president of competition and operations.
As race director, Barnhart will see him lead a three-person race control team at each of this year's event. Under the new officiating system introduced for 2014, any steward can call for a review of an on-track incident using video and telemetry evidence but any penalties handed out during the race are decided by a two-thirds majority rather than being at the sole discretion of the race director, who does get to set the severity of any penalty pursuant to the available sanctions laid out in the IndyCar Series rule book.
"The process allows the race director to focus on running the race, without the double-duty of reviewing multiple replays and simultaneously trying to make a call," explained Walker. "In terms of determining penalties our process defines that a majority vote amongst the three stewards is required, which ensures a jury-like process. Last year we found that this was a fair system when making difficult judgement calls."
Barnhart previously served as IndyCar's race director for 15 years from 2011, until a controversial season that included a series of high-profile run-ins with team owners and drivers saw him decide to step down from the hands-on role and into a more managerial position.
The position was subsequently filled by former American Le Mans Series race director Beaux Barfield in 2012, but Barfield left IndyCar at the end of last season to take up the equivalent position within the Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
IndyCar started a recruitment process to find a new race director, but it appear that Barnhart was always the leading candidate for the the position and that he himself was keen to return to the post in 2015.
"This is a position and a role that I've done for a number of years and I take a great deal of pride in being Race Director of the Verizon IndyCar Series," said Barnhart.
"One of the things that excites me the most is the steward system we implemented last year," he continued. "That was a great advancement in how we review and make discretionary decisions, and having that assistance in making calls is a big improvement to the way we officiate IndyCar events."
"We need somebody we know," Team Penske president Tim Cindric told reporters on Wednesday when asked about Barnhart's appointment. "I wouldn't expect a whole lot different ... We've been there and done that. He's been there before. He's a known quantity. Bringing someone else in that we didn't know before was maybe a bigger question. Brian is someone we understand. Don't have to get to know anybody. He's the guy. I don't see any other candidates out there that were any better.
"It's a thankless job," Cindric admitted. "It's also one that it puts you right in the thick of it, and I think there is a certain amount of adrenaline and a certain amount of passion that you can express in that position, so that's an opportunity for that outlet.
"I think he's someone who has been around the sport a long time. Sitting there watching someone else do it, you always take notes. I think in doing that, it'll be interesting to see if they continue with the same concept they've had before. So it's difficult to say whether it's a replacement or whether they're changing."
In his new position, Barnhart will oversee race control and its staff, the sporting regulations of the rulebook, the Holmatro Safety Team and medical personnel, security and also timing and scoring.
The IndyCar season gets underway on March 8 in Brasilia, Brazil. Aero kits will be rolled out for the first time for the next race on the calendar on March 29, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida.
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