INSIDE THE FRANCHITTI PENALTY TRIBUNAL
The Target Chip Ganassi Racing team made it clear they would be protesting Race Control's decision to give third-place finisher Dario Franchitti a 25-second penalty for avoidable contact with Will Power in Turn 3 on lap 85, and after the meeting between the team and series took place, Ganassi Racing general manager Mike Hull spoke to RACER about the process and its successful outcome.
“I applaud the thoroughness and attention to detail of Derrick Walker and his people,” he said, referring to IndyCar's new president of competition. “They requested and got additional video evidence to view what took place, and had the used only what they had in Race Control, it could have gone either way. But with the extra video they tracked down, they saw what they needed and made the right call.”
Hull brought supporting data from Franchitti's onboard computer system to make their case, which also proved beneficial in getting the penalty overturned.
“They also reviewed step-by-step data and saw how hard Dario was on the brakes entering Turn 3, his steering traces, and then ruled on the protest.”
Hull sat with Walker, (temporary) race director Brian Barnhart, and race stewards Gary Barnard, Bill Van de Sandt and Arie Luyendyk as the information was reviewed.
In the end, Hull credited Walker for the timely and thorough process that was put together and Barnhart's willingness to reverse the decision.
“I have to say quite frankly that in Derrick's position, integrating the group to look at all the elements and making the right decision in such a short amount of time was a credit to his team,” he added. “Once Brian and the others saw the data, he agreed there was no violation by Dario and had no problem accepting the evidence and restoring our third-place finish.”
WELL, THAT WAS A BIG WASTE OF TIME
One stalled car was all it took to undo a year of planning for IndyCar's first standing start. If you were at the track, or even within a few miles of downtown Toronto, you probably heard the chorus of boos from the grandstands.
Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden had his Honda-powered car stall while attempting to pull into his box, and told RACER electrical gremlins were to blame.
“I can't believe it ended up being me that screwed the whole standing start deal,” he said. “I didn't want to be that guy who ruined it... The car died before I got to grid. The minute I pulled the clutch to pull into my box, it died. When they went to start the car, it wouldn't start. Then when it did start, it didn't want to pull away. It took about five tries to get the ignition cycled before it started properly, then it wouldn't shift… We traced it to a faulty throttle sensor, and once that was sorted out, things improved.”
Thankfully, the Savoree Green team that promotes the Toronto Indy race went politely demanded a do-over for Sunday's race. Round 2 was originally scheduled for a rolling start, but Newgarden and the rest of the drivers will have another crack at executing the series' first standing start.
Granted, if Sunday's standing start is aborted, you might be able to hear the boos across the border…
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Let me state right up front that eviscerating (temporary) IndyCar Race Director Brian Barnhart for the Dario Franchitti blocking penalty which he subsequently rescinding won't be happening here. It was a non-call, at best, but he clearly felt otherwise at the time.
It's worth mentioning that with the one-race absence of Race Director Beaux Barfield, the stylistic differences between the old and new regimes was perfectly demonstrated in how the Franchitti/Power incident was handled.
Barfield, a "Boys have at it" kind of guy, is slow on the trigger unless an obvious and egregious penalty has been committed. Barnhart, who always keeps a round in the chamber, was consistent in how he ruled on Power's ill-fated passing attempt. Like two referees calling the same game, one has shown a tendency to blow the whistle at the slightest provocation, while the other sometimes forgets to bring it with him.
With their respective track records, it's hard to get upset when either one does exactly what we expect them to do.
WHEELS UP, WHEELS DOWN FOR CONWAY
Speaking with Dale Coyne Racing's Mike Conway after qualifying for Round 2 was a rather tense encounter. The Briton, who won the first race at Detroit's doubleheader in June, was slowest of the 24 cars in the field and it showed in his frustrated account of his car's deficiencies.
“It just has no grip…this is the same setup we had at Detroit, but the car just won't stay on the ground,” he said. “It's a damper and spring thing. We can't keep the tires on the ground long enough to generate any heat and it won't turn, but we've already tried a bunch of changes and we're not getting any results. We'll go back and look at the data, but I'm not sure what's left to change.”
Whatever it was that DCR engineer John Dick did to improve the car for Round 1 allowed Conway to show the form we're accustomed to, carving from 20th to seventh, the biggest improvement of any driver in the field.
“It was a relief to get a good result after both qualifying sessions were such a disappointment,” he said after the race. “The car was better, and with the track gripping up, it really helped us. We still have some issues with the car, but we can try some things in the morning warm-up — try to make the back of the car better. It was good to get P7, and to be competitive. Now we have it all to do it over again tomorrow and from last on the grid…it should be interesting.”
QUICK RECOVERY FOR BRISCOE
Panther Racing's Ryan Briscoe provided RACER with an update Saturday night just after the Aussie left the hospital while nursing a broken wrist from his contact with Justin Wilson's car.
“I felt a shooting pain in my wrist right after making contact, but then it was weird because I could wiggle my fingers,” he said, describing the impact that snapped the steering wheel hard left while his hands were still attached.
“I've never broken my wrist before, so I didn't know what to expect, but I should be able to recover pretty quickly, I think. I'm flying to Indianapolis tomorrow night and will have surgery. It should take two or three weeks to recover, I'm told, but I can't wait to get back in the car. The team has really been coming together so well; I think I've really clicked with the crew and my engineers and I hate that this might impact that momentum we have going.”
Briscoe, who said he was dealing with the pain better than he expected, will be at the track tomorrow with the team.
Indy 500 runner-up Carlos Munoz was subsequently announced as replacing Briscoe in the No. 4 car. He stated on his Twitter feed: "I'll be on the Indycar [grid] tomorrow with @PantherRacing replacing Ryan for his unfortunate accident."
Among the multiple on-track incidents that took place at Round 1, one off-track crash proved to be the funniest encounter of the day.
Second-place finisher Sebastien Bourdais found out that hard way that the crystal vase he received as a trophy was not actually attached to the wooden base it sat atop. The Frenchman went to lift the base and hold it overhead to pose for photos, but barely got the uncoupled arrangement to waist level before the vase tumbled off its perch, nearly hit Dario Franchitti, struck the padded podium floor and bounced off, shattering as it hit the cement.
It was the only thing the embarrassed Champ Car champion got wrong on Saturday.