Verizon IndyCar Series chief executive Mark Miles has warned drivers and teams that outspoken public criticism of the championship won't be considered acceptable in the future.

"It's one thing for our fans and audience and all that and people that care about us to weigh in and have opinions and that's great," said Miles. "If they don't, then we really are in trouble as a sport. What I didn't love was our members - some of our stakeholders, by whom I mean representatives of teams and certain drivers - I thought really going too far with their public statements.

"Comments can be damaging to the interest of the whole, and I personally think our sport has been probably too lax in that regard," he added. "On the other hand, it's incumbent on us to be a place where stakeholders can feel like they can express their views and they are heard and they are absolutely taken into consideration.

"I think as a sanctioning body we got to step up a little bit where it makes sense, and I think you can look for us to take that approach going forward."

A number of drivers were vocal in their complaints of the racing that dominated last weekend's MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Reigning series champion Will Power labelled the race as "insane" and said that he was worried the Series was coming close to having another Vegas incident, referring to the 2011 race in which pack racing had led to the death of Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon.

Veteran racer Tony Kanaan had also expressed the same concerns, calling the event "crazy" and "stupid" although he also went on to admit that "It was a heck of a race for the fans."

Speaking to reporters on a midweek teleconference, Miles said that he had not been happy with some of the comments that had circulated in the media following the Fontana race and that in his view it risk undermining and damaging the sport.

"I'm not pleased with some of that, I'm not naming any names," he said. "I've talked to a couple, but many I haven't. We're not going to be levying sanctions based on comments that were made last weekend, but I do think they provide an important reason that I do need to have a number of conversations and will have them, and I think we will have them with some individuals and we'll have them with team owners and drivers generally.

"That does not mean that we can't tolerate criticism, and that there won't be lots of opinions on lots of different topics, but there are lines that have to be drawn and they're hard to make black and white.

"It's incumbent upon us to be a responsible, responsive, intelligent sanctioning body," he added. "Any sport, when it doles out penalties, especially not competitive penalties but this sort of thing, has to think about their style.

"But I will change this culture to some extent going forward by being more activist and whether we're pounding our chests about that or not, you can be sure it's going to happen if it needs to.

"This is an inherently dangerous sport," he pointed out. "You've seen Ed Carpenter and others talk about it recently. We've got to be the kind of sanctioning body that the drivers feel comfortable coming to and believe that smart people listen and make the best judgements possible.

"Not all the drivers have the same point of view about anything. I think we have demonstrated that we do care about safety, and fundamentally also about growing this sport and attracting more fans. All those things are in the mix. I think we were probably closer than we had in mind in Fontana."

As for why Fontana produced some of the most edge-of-the-seat, thrilling racing of recent years, Miles suggested it was to do with the daytime setting (previous outings at Fontana have been held at night) and the fact that Saturday proved unexpectedly cooler than the usual scorching conditions to be found there. But the new aerodynamic bodywork components also played a part, he admitted.

"We probably did go a step too far with the down force that we allowed or provided for in the aero spec," he agreed. "Happily, it was safe, and it certainly provided a very compelling race ... It was adrenalinefilled, it was hard to look away, at times it was hard to watch. It was so exciting."

Although no penalties have been imposed for comments made after Fontana, Power has been handed a $25,000 fine and placed on probation for the remainder of the 2015 season for improper conduct after shoving a track worker who was leading him away from his car after he crashed out with ten laps remaining. The track worker had been attempting to ensure Power was kept separated from Takuma Sato who has triggered the incident.

Power subsequently said sorry for the incident. "I want to apologise to the safety guy - I shouldn't have pushed him and I'm sorry for that - I was extremely upset, but I know that's no excuse," he posted on Twitter on Sunday. "I also apologised to him in person."

Also penalised was the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team which was handed a $10,000 fine (half suspended) and a crew member placed on a three-race probation following an incident in which Graham Rahal's #15 car left pit lane with the fuel hose still attached. There had been some controversy about why the team was not given an in-race penalty - which could have meant Rahal missing out on going on his first win in seven years - but the sanction is in line with the Series' procedures for handling such incidents this season.

Penske were fined $1,500 after Juan Pablo Montoya ran over an air hose; Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has been handed a $500 for an unattended wheel nut on James Jakes' car, and Andretti Autosport similarly penalised for the same infraction on Carlo Munoz' entry. CFH Racing get a double fine of $1,000 for both wheel nut and tyre infringements on Josef Newgarden's car.

Elsewhere, Tristan Vautier was fined $10,000 and placed on probation for the remainder of the 2015 season for running into his front left tyre changer during a pit stop early in the race.

In the manufacturers standings, Chevrolet gets a 60 point bonus for the engines in the cars of Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais and all four Ganassi entries reaching their designated 2,500-mile life. Honda receive a 30 point boost for the engines belonging to Ryan Briscoe, Graham Rahal and Gabby Chaves all doing likewise. Unfortunately Chevrolet then promptly lost those 60 points in deductions for engines that had to be replaced early for Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya, Stefano Coletti, James Jakes, Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay. As a result, Chevrolet now has 1,108 manufacturer championship points for the season so far and Honda has 921.

Away from last week's Fontana race, Mark Miles also discussed another area of criticism - the truncated 2015 season which will be comprised of just 16 races with the final event coming at the end of August, meaning a seven month lay-off for the teams and drivers.

Miles stressed that he was working to expand the season in 2016 and that the Memorial Day full stop to the season before the start of NFL action on Labor Day weekend was not his personal preference.

"We do not expect to have a fivemonth schedule, nor was that ever the goal," he insisted. "The idea was not shorter and less, it was to see if we couldn't slide the schedule while actually growing it earlier in the year to be in a more ideal or beneficial television period.

"The model we have been pursuing has been seven months, 16, 18, 20 events and the number of events more is not necessarily better, it has to work on the calendar," he continued. "From a television audience perspective, I think I can invite any number of television executives to a call like this and without exception we would hear them say that from a television perspective, the postLabor Day period for us will be a challenge.

"Clearly, though, and I think we have been saying this for some time, certainly I thought clearly back before May, when we end the season next year will be directly related to when we can start it," he explained. "We are not going to have a fivemonth season next year. All those other factors that I've mentioned will play into the exact length, when it starts, when it ends, but we're working very hard on it."

While the full 2016 calendar is yet to be announced, the Series has already confirmed a new event in Boston for Labor Day weekend - and the firm hope is that this won't be the final event of the season.

"When we announced it, we made it clear that we had not decided if it would be the finale and for emphasis, at this point I would guess it isn't, it won't be," said Miles. "But that would ultimately come down to what the full shape of the schedule will look like when we know what our options are."

Despite a disappointingly sparse attendance at Auto Club Speedway - TV audience figures showed strong growth and nearly doubled year-on-year by comparison - Miles said he hoped to keep the two-mile oval on the itinerary for next season.

"We do want to have it back. It's a traditional event that's produced great racing. We want to see the crowd grow, we want to see impact in LA in the market and we know if that's going to happen, there are things they will have to do and we're going to have to find a date that will work.

"Keeping the ovals on the schedule is really important to us," he said, adding that IndyCar had been flexible on sanction fees while adding that the Series couldn't underwrite loss-making events from its own pocket.

"I don't believe that actually copromoting when we are in their market selling tickets for them is our strength, so that seems like a bridge too far, but we care a lot about the ovals being part of the Series, along with the streets and the roads, and we're going to do whatever we can to ensure that balance."



Loading Comments...