Q. I talked to a lot of drivers about some of the controversies this year and some of the outspokenness that there's been against the race director, and it seems it keeps coming back to “the rule book is the problem.” I'm wondering if you guys agree? When I asked Randy Bernard about it, he said the rule book at the end of the season needs an immediate scrubbing from front to back. Is that an accurate statement?
TIM CINDRIC: From our perspective, I think it's more than just the rule book. The rule book is all a matter of guidance, but at the end of the day, the sanctioning body has control over how the events are run. I think what you've seen in terms of the discussions this year has really, in our minds anyway, come down to asking for consistency in terms of how the rules are actually officiated. That's the part of it – and I think there's some philosophies about whether or not the one that comes up the most is really whether or not drivers should be allowed to impede the progress of the car behind them, and if they can or if they can't, what are the guidelines for that?
I think all the drivers are asking for is clear direction; they're looking for something that they understand, and they're looking for someone to enforce that or the sanctioning body to enforce that in a consistent manner. I think that's all a matter of opinion as to whether that's occurring or not occurring, and it's a difficult job for any one person to do.
Some series look at it as more of a committee and a spokesperson, and I think the process needs to be looked at as much really as the rule book or the individual people. It really comes down to ensuring good decisions are made, because there's no rule book that defines whether you restart a race or whether you don't restart a race, or at what point is the track ready to race on or what the conditions are. That's not the rule book. The rule book really has to be, again, consistently interpreted by the sanctioning body, and I think what there have been more discussions in this year of some of the inconsistencies that exist.
MIKE HULL: Yeah, I think that's what we have in common. It's not about a sledgehammer versus a flyswatter and who defines the rule for us in terms of a race director. It's more about creating consistency that seems to be fair, fair for everybody involved, and certainly we're all going to have differences of opinions on Sunday about how we're affected. But the relevant thing is that if in the eyes of the beholder – which are the fans, the team owners, the drivers, the crew members – if we're all fairly treated with consistency, that's all we can ask for, and the rule book is almost secondary to that. It's almost secondary.
Yes, the rule book needs to be cleaned up in certain areas because – I think I was quoted on this at some point in time before, it's kind of like Microsoft software: it's just one thing added on top other another on top of another on top of another instead of starting with a code from scratch. Hopefully something has been made that can straighten that out for us a bit, but consistency is the most important thing.
TIM CINDRIC: Just in terms of the rule book, to finish on that, the rule book needs to be something that the fans understand, because if they become overcomplicated, usually when people are confused they lose interest. I think that has to be another consideration, as well. As Mike said before, sometimes we're too close to the sport and need a simpler viewpoint.
MIKE HULL: What's happened is that, unfortunately, we've been driven into this corner called spec racing where in combination with the engine levels, the power levels are identical from car to car, the cars are identical, the tires are like granite now that we race on. Firestone does a great job with the tires, but they're extremely hard. There's no grip anymore to pass anybody in a braking area, there's no grip anymore to pass anybody as you come off a corner. And as a result of that, the rule book now is this microscopic thing where Brian [Barnhart] and his people in Race Control are trying to define where on the racetrack you can find this imaginary line to pass somebody, which is absolutely ludicrous. It's ludicrous now.
A driver who has enormous ability can no longer display it, because the cars are so identical to each other that a driver with ability can no longer get around somebody that they should be able to get round. Somebody leading a race can no longer get around a person that's running in 25th position cleanly. That's wrong. That's absolutely wrong. And to draw a line on the racetrack and say, “Oh, well, a guy can't pass over there because he's committed himself at the first part of the straightaway,” is absolutely ridiculous. It doesn't matter who built that rule or who has to define it; it's absolutely ridiculous.
We've got to get back to being able to give drivers what they need to get around each other. That's probably what we need to create for ourselves.
Q. Tim, how would you assess why Helio Castroneves has had such a lousy year? He's not only performing poorly, but he seems extremely frustrated publicly, and I'm wondering if there's an issue with him, if he's had problems with equipment. Just how would you assess him and his season overall?
TIM CINDRIC: Well, when we let him down like we did last week and gave him no opportunity to compete, that doesn't bode well for our organization or for him, because that was totally down to us as far as the results of a race like last week. I think that you've seen the Helio of old, and we've also seen situations in which – going back to double‑file restarts, for whatever reason, he's gotten caught up in quite a few of those, whether it's his fault or not, he's borne the brunt of quite a few incidents in the restart scenario.
He's obviously got the ability, because he's run second to Will a couple times this year, and certainly I don't feel that there's a mental situation. I don't think that he's distracted by something else, as others say. I've known him for quite some time. The Baltimore race was taken away from him completely, because as they rearranged all of the cars there at Baltimore after the turn was blocked, they put Helio back in his spot, but he was a lap down because they hadn't restarted his car yet, and none of the race officials realized that until Monday after the race. At that point in time, he was ahead of the second-place car in the race and would have probably finished at least second, if not beat Will.
He's had some things go against him. He's created his own luck in some ways. The incident [at Motegi] with passing under yellow, I think that's something that he's aware of, whether you pass under a yellow condition or you don't. The discussion there was more about the overall penalty relative to the crime.
So I think he's certainly ready to hit the reset button and move forward for next week, because I felt like last year was probably one of his best years behind the wheel.
Q. As exciting as it is out there with 34 cars entered in the Vegas race, is it also at the same time concerning considering the pit activity of Kentucky?
MIKE HULL: I don't know, Tim and I talked about that this week a little bit. My feeling about why we went away from the way that we used to choose pits was to try to make the racing more exciting for the people who are viewing it. But what I find myself doing, being on a timing stand and watching the race, I have to reorganize myself to understand who we're next to at a particular event – what does this driver do, what does the guy do that calls that driver's race, how do they get that guy in the box, how do they not, whereas it used to be we were a lot more familiar with that throughout the year.
But we're highly paid professionals – we're supposed to figure this out. It's disappointing that highly paid professionals getting in and out of their pit boxes can't get it done. It's disappointing that the people helping them get in and out of the box aren't always getting it done. It happens.
We just need to do a better job of that because the racing is supposed to be on the racetrack and not in the pit lane.