Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Pit Penalties

One of the themes of Sunday's Milwaukee 225 Indycar race was pit road chaos.
Eclipsing the Takuma Sato Keystone Kops routine in the first round of stops in controversy was something I didn't notice while watching the race. During the second round of stops, Dario Franchitti clipped one of the tires (and knocked the tire changer off-balance) set out for Will Power's imminent stop. No penalty was assessed, even though the rule book apparently clearly forbids any car from making contact with pit equipment or personnel. After the race, officials clarified their position by sharing the detail that crews had been instructed to move right front tires to give drivers pitting immediately ahead of them (as Dario was Power) room to pull in. Power's crewman, therefore, should have moved the right front tire out of the way of Dario Franchitti on his way in.

This might surprise any of my readers who think that I'm in the bag for Dario, but I think he should have been penalized. Intentional or not, he hit a piece of equipment on pit road and created a situation even more dangerous than the pits already are. Even if the equipment and/or crewman were in the wrong place, hitting them is still worthy of a penalty. (If one comes across a pedestrian in the middle of the road, is one allowed to go ahead and hit him?)

That said, if the crew did receive instructions to make way for drivers in downtrack pit stalls, then Power should have been penalized, as well. After all, they broke a rule/ignored a command by race officials.

As it stands, it appears that the accusations of inconsistent or unclear officiating continue to have merit. Just because an infraction causes no inconvenience or injury does not mean that no penalty should be issued. In fact, it's necessary for a penalty to be issued in order to maintain consistency and rules clarity. Conversely, if a driver's questionable actions cause a drop in position for him or her, that is not sufficient punishment. The infraction needs to be recognized, called out, explained, and enforced. Doing otherwise brings the credibility of the series into question.

All that said, history shows that there probably won't be any changes to Sunday's results. It's time to put this issue in the past and leave it there. Like it or not, there are no asterisks in the history books. It's not the first, nor will it be the last time that the dominant/popular car/team/driver was shown favortism. The best that can be done is to make our feelings known and hope that series officials and leadership take notice.

While on the subject of Dario, he's not doing his image any favors. Right or wrong, his consistent complaining (even in the face of success) is a huge fan turn-off. Maybe he should air his complaints to the officials behind closed doors (and he might be, for all I know). Besides, I'll admit to not being an expert, but I'm not sure where Helio blocked him late in Sunday's race.

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