Indy Racing League – Chief steward: ‘We’ll … act appropriately’

By Dave Lewandowski

Indy Racing League president of competition and racing operations Brian Barnhart said any potential fine or penalty levied on Helio Castroneves won’t be announced until after he talks with the Team Penske driver.

Castroneves was issued a black flag for blocking teammate Will Power, who was seeking to regain the lead in Turn 1 with two laps remaining in the Honda Indy Edmonton on July 25. The three-time Indianapolis 500 champion didn’t heed the notification to take a drive-thru penalty, and after the race confronted three IZOD IndyCar Series officials. He was given a 20-second penalty and classified 10th (the final car on the lead lap).

“We’ve reviewed the videos since we’ve returned from Edmonton but I haven’t had an opportunity to contact him,” Barnhart said. “Hopefully, we’ll be doing so very shortly. We’re extremely disappointed in his behavior post-race but certainly understand his frustrations and emotions. He’s a very passionate person and very competitive driver. I think he represents the majority of our field; it is that competitive and that tight. When things have gone against them, they feel like they’ve been wronged, they’re going to have some expressions.

“That’s still inexcusable to put your hands on an official and abuse the officials the way he did. We’ll have a conversation, take his side into consideration as well as what he did, and act appropriately.”

A few hours after the checkered flag, Castroneves issued an apology for his post-race actions and reiterated it 24 hours later on IndyCar Weekly.

“I’m more upset about actually my actions, I apologize again,” he said on the show hosted by Mike King of the IMS Radio Network. “I certainly should control a little bit more my emotions. I am a human being, unfortunately I slip a little bit.” LISTEN HERE

Castroneves doesn’t agree with the black flag call by Barnhart, the race chief steward, who has received near-unanimous support from drivers in the race.

“It wasn’t a difficult call to make,” Barnhart said. “We have made it perfectly clear for well over a year, especially on road course racing, from the braking point to entry a driver is not to be on the inside half of the turn unless he’s overtaking someone. If you’re down there while under attack from someone else, you’re blocking. We’re supposed to enforce the rules as they’re written and we clearly did. I feel bad for Helio, but we didn’t create the situation. We just responded to it.

“You have to keep in mind why the rule is there in the first place, and our rule against blocking is there from a safety aspect – the inherent danger of open-wheel cars making contact – and we’re also trying to improve the entertainment value. When you road race as often as we do, by the nature of these tracks they don’t have a lot of passing zones. If you allow cars to defend and take away the only passing lane, you’re going to have a boring event.”

Barnhart said if competitors in the series approach the sanctioning body to review the blocking rule, “we’re open-minded and will look at the rule.”

“That’s why it’s there, but be prepared if it goes away because you’ll have some safety issues, you’ll crash a lot of cars that cost a lot of money and you’re going to have follow-the-leader parades,” he said. “As the rule is written now, it was a clear violation.”

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