First reported on Tuesday and rumored from the start as one of the leading candidates to replace Brian Barnhart, Beaux Barfield was introduced as IndyCar's new race director and president of competition on Wednesday morning. He has been signed to a one-year contract and will report directly to IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.
Barfield, 40, served as the American Le Mans Series race director from 2008 through 2011. Prior to that, he had worked as the race director for the Formula Atlantic championship and alongside Tony Cotman within Champ Car's race control. A former driver, Barfield raced in Formula 2000 and Indy Lights in the 1990s before he began his officiating career.
IndyCar CEO Bernard said he was confident Barfield was the correct appointment for the series.
"Though Beaux's most recent experience is in sports car racing, his roots are in open-wheel racing," Bernard said. "He has built a strong reputation as a race director with ALMS and bringing him on board ensures that IndyCar has a dedicated race director with the right level of expertise for the IZOD IndyCar Series."
Barfield's first task will be a rewrite of the IndyCar rulebook, which said needs to have some gray area, but still provide clarity on what the expectations are.
“The attraction for me coming into this is that it does require some fix and some change,” Barfield said. “It's great to come in with the ability to write rules and go from the ground up.
“There will be general changes, not absolute wholesale. Talking rules philosophically, we can make sense and long for black and white. You don't want to paint yourself into a box. If it's too open and ambiguous, you can get in trouble, or if it's too specific, you can, too.”
Asked about blocking, Barfield joked the press conference was “already like a driver's meeting,” but further explained his stance.
“I'll give you an explanation about where I stand on blocking,” he said. “From the beginning, we made zero calls on blocking my first year. We then called everything on blocking. Both in retrospect were wrong. From an officiating standpoint, the easy way to call it isn't the answer.
“We have a product to produce. The absolute black and white rules aren't really compatible. It requires an official who can articulate the gray. I don't like a line down the track. There will be latitude to defend their positions, but calls will be made if it gets too dangerous.”
Finding the balance between the gray and setting the clear expectations when calling the race is one of Barfield's goals he plans to articulate.
“It's simple (who has the final say) – I do,” he said. “Actually, that brings me to something worth elaborating. I'm fortunate to be a professional, but a race fan. I've always watched IndyCar. In watching, I form opinions about things that happen. And try to do things that could happen and be improved. I'm always analyzing what I'm seeing.
“Ultimately, the steward structure – the lines of how decisions got made – got blurred along the way. I don't want to walk in here wielding a big stick, but the race decisions come down to the race director, period, end of story. I have to explain exactly what my expectations are. Even though there's grey, I need to be clear. We might have a problem if we make a decision away from what the driver expectations are.”
Barfield said he has a steward concept he's “not totally prepared to roll out yet,” but should garner outside opinion from different directions – either drivers, team managers or other officials.
The American Le Mans Series, Barfield's former home, did not have to look far to find its replacement, having promoted one of Barfield's top assistants Paul Walter to its race director post. Walter will continue to serve as race director for the USF2000 championship as well.