The big thing this weekend was introducing the race control camera on the Verizon IndyCar Mobile app. Your expectations?
I hope it shows how complicated this process is. The difference again, is because of the diversity of our schedule compared to any other. We don't even watch videos on an oval. We look out the window to see everything that's happening. The worst-case scenario – Long Beach – we did it inside the basement of the Long Beach Arena. We couldn't hear anything outside it.
When you're at an oval, you can control what you're looking at. At road courses, you're at the mercy of what the cameraman shows you, and what the producer focuses on. If there's a car that moves to the next corner out of sight, how do you know that car didn't just spin – you don't know. If he's sitting there and you don't know it, and the next guy comes around the corner and T-bones him, you feel like an idiot!
You're at the mercy of some of the places. What they show you changes. On practice days, it's not uncommon, you'll be at St. Pete or Long Beach and they'll zoom in on some good-looking gal in a bikini.
Still, safety is always paramount. I think that's one of the things we're hoping it shows. It's sophisticated, complicated, detailed, with an incredible amount of information that comes through. I think it will confirm that we are a professional organization; that we are capable, competent and qualified to make the decisions we need to make.
Would you say you have to make calls almost as much on instinct if you don't see it live?
We deal with a very complex situation as best we can. Things happen in a hurry. They [drivers] know they are counting on you to be safe, and that's when you're sick to your stomach if you made a mistake. You're so much at the mercy of what you're shown. We're watching up to 20 screens, so there are a lot of eyes shifting around.
When an accident happens, how is the info from corner marshals relayed?
Again, there are complications. I'll go back to St. Pete. [Sebastien] Bourdais crashed coming through the chicane, and his teammate [James Jakes] crashed in Turn 2. When two people talk on the radio, what do you get? Neither one. Corner workers call yellows. Luckily one screen showed one, we didn't even know the other one wrecked until 20 seconds later.
It's pretty complicated, communication-wise. There's a lot going on. There are pit techs, safety workers, corner workers. We try to manage and filter that communication as best we can. If we talk on race control, and say “local yellow in Turn 5,” (teams) might not have heard it if they were talking to their drivers. Multiple indications are best from a safety standpoint.
You mentioned how you hear about the criticism. Your response to how vitriolic it was?
I don't pay attention; I don't know how vitriolic it was. I don't think I could do my job if I read or paid attention to that stuff. Amy [Konrath, IndyCar PR] has heard me say it 1,000 times when she said, “Did you hear what someone said or wrote?” If you're in a position of trying to be an official and get concerned about personal attacks or what other people say or write about you, I think it can influence your ability to do your job.
I think the important thing I found out early, in terms of being a race control official, is that our sport is unlike others in many ways. We don't have timeouts. We don't have instant replay. Decisions need to be made instantaneously more often than not. To be successful in race control, you have to be ready and prepared to make mistakes.
If you're afraid of making mistakes, you won't make a decision, and it will paralyze you. You'll hesitate – and hesitation in this game is when people get hurt. You might make a mistake. I think our race control and me specifically have been right far more often than we've been wrong. But we're human. We'll make mistakes.
The human element is a part of every sport. It's funny – in baseball, if you argue balls and strikes, you get tossed. Our guys get to complain about everything! The human element from officials means the outcomes of games are never changed. They don't come back three days later and reverse the outcome after the Super Bowl if the winning catch by the receiver happened where he didn't get his foot down. They just say the official made a bad call.
We're right far more often than we're wrong. You can be right 98 of 100 times and the two you're wrong, you get called on.