Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Don't Want to Hammer on Brian Barnhart

But as poor of a perception as the drivers and IndyCar fanbase has about the guy, he is better off keeping his mouth shut or letting some PR wizard handle his stuff. In an e-mail to the Indy Star (see the story here) he defends his handling of the Dario Franchitti incident and believes the correct penalty was handed out.

"The basic concept of our penalty is we want the offending driver at the back of the field for his offense," Barnhart wrote in an email. A driver either gets there voluntarily or through the mandate of race control, he said. "Either way achieves basically the same thing," Barnhart said.

If it achieves the same thing, then why have so many other drivers been given a drive-through penalty as opposed to sending them to the back of the line? Why not do the same thing to them?

And, for the record, it is not the same thing. A drive-through penalty is steep (which all penalties should be), with in and out time to the pits it puts a driver 30 seconds or more behind the rest of the field. Putting Dario at the end of the line allowed him to easily drive back up through the field, and in the end he finished the race just a handful of positions down from where he was when he started the whole fiasco.

Really, there are a few things I don't like about this. One, after the debacle at New Hampshire it gave the series (another) black eye. Two, with the driver/team involved and the championship implications any penalty might have, it gave conspiracy theorists plenty of fodder in which to speculate that this was done with preferential treatment in mind. If you are a huge entity, such as NASCAR or even the NFL, for example, you can get away with doing things that might raise eyebrows...preferential treatment and conspiracies (real and imagined) are part of the fabric of those sports and the discussions that it spawns among the fan bases add to their excitement and popularity.

In a series like IndyCar, which is struggling for recognition and respect, it is a sign of incompetence and, even worse, a total lack of integrity. In order for the series to get the respect from race fans it needs to grow and prosper, everything needs to be done right, especially up in the booth. That's not happening now, and Randy Bernard needs to give a lot of thought as to why, and what he needs to do about it.

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