About Those IndyCar Penalties, Or Under-Officious Jerks


Photo from indycar.com

Seems to us IndyCar’s iron fist of justice has turned a bit well, limp lately. The faceless, mysterious and secretive force known only as “race control” has obviously changed direction this season, taking a delayed approach to penalty enforcement – if bothering at all. Remember black flags? Drive through penalties? Disqualifications? As we all learned in government class and more recently in Ferguson, Baltimore and movie theaters everywhere, lax enforcement leads to disregard of the rules, which in turn leads to chaos. IndyCar’s chaotic enough without adopting Russian mob rules.


Photo from sports.usatoday.com

In taking a wait and see approach to penalties, IndyCar is bucking the long standing tradition of penalizing drivers for infractions during the race in which they committed them so as to affect the offending drivers’ outcomes. IndyCar has three stewards and new, supposedly state of the art video equipment, so why not use them? Instant assessment of penalties not only discourages bad behavior and rule breaking – both of which are occurring this season – but also eliminates the speculation, whining and questioning that inevitably lingers long after the incidents themselves. Seen Twitter lately? After all, when it comes to officiating it’s an issue of basic fairness.


Photo from ap.org

Little was written or said about the Milwaukee winner’s misdeeds as the series ploddingly plowed its way into Iowa. Bourdais‘ team clearly broke the rule concerning minimum weight as his car failed post race inspection weighing in too lightly, yet the team maintained its victory. The whole kerfuffle cost KV Racing a mere five grand – well worth stealing a win – and was quickly forgotten. But it was just the latest in a string of such incidents.


Photo from autosport.com

There was Rahal’s questionable win at Fontana, escaping penalty even though his fueler carelessly reinserted the hose as he drove away, breaking off the nozzle and precipitating it on the track. Despite this causing a yellow, it wasn’t until days later that a fine and probation for the fueler were handed down, again with Rahal’s victorious outcome completely unaffected. In the old days lives would have been in jeopardy due to a stunt like that and the team would have been penalized immediately. Nowadays only lives are in danger and perhaps petty cash.


Photo from indystar.com

Noticing the lax enforcement and acting upon it, Graham wasn’t finished nor was he alone. He made contact with nearly a third of the field during his latest race to the front in Iowa, while Sage Karam chopped cars left and right. Ed Carpenter did his best Danica impression and then proceeded to drop the f-bomb on live tv. Guess what? No penalties were forthcoming. Forget about Team Penske ever being penalized. If and when there ever are any infractions, there’ll be little in the way of insight for fans, much less a rationale behind it all. There’ll be some fines and probably probation handed out, however the race result will remain as always unaffected.

James Hinchcliffe, of Canada, hits the wall in the third turn during practice for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Monday, May 18, 2015.  (Jimmy Dawson/The Indianapolis Star via AP) ORG XMIT: ININS101

Photo from indystar.com

If the new bumpered, aero-kitted, “safer” cars – though don’t tell James Hinchcliffe that – are the reason for race control’s more laissez-faire approach to racing, then simply update the rule book and make an announcement to reflect the new reality. Frankly we preferred the era of actual open wheeled IndyCars – both front and rear – but sadly those days are gone, at least for now. If it’s something else – declining attendance, low viewership, series on the brink – then IndyCar should admit it, or at least make up a whopper. Say something. Anything. But get ahead of the story.


Image from Indy Race Reviewer

Perhaps anachronistically and at the risk of unpopularity, we at IRR still believe in rules and their enforcement, certainly when it comes to IndyCar – and theaters. We also happen to believe in transparency. IndyCar isn’t NASCAR for goodness sake nor should it be, but nor has it been particularly forthcoming or overly concerned with living under its own rules as of late. Sound familiar? Like laws, if rules are unnecessary then by all means do away with them. We could do with some serious repeal in this country. But when rules are required, enforce them equally for everyone and do so when possible on the spot. None of this traffic camera ticket in the mail b.s. There’s a deterrence factor in doing so and for a “major” series appearances must also be considered. Appeals come later, not penalties.


Photo from motorauthority.com

As Charlie Kimball pointed out tongue in cheek during an interview before Iowa, “blocking isn’t allowed in IndyCar, defending is.” Confusion about rules inevitably leads to suspicion, disregard and ultimately a breakdown in trust. That’s exactly what we’re starting to see with such slipshod enforcement and so little explanation by race control and the series. With continuing silence from the powers that be, can IndyCar chaos be far in the offing?


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