Michael Andretti responds to IndyCar’s penalty on son Marco

Father and team owner for Marco Andretti, Michael Andretti, watches on in Fort Worth, Texas.

© 2014, Michael L. Levitt

After INDYCAR officials penalized Marco Andretti on Saturday and fined him on Sunday morning for “failure to yield to the blue (move over) flag,” team owner and father Michael Andretti was fuming mad.

Andretti was the last car on the lead lap when the leader, Takuma Sato, was coming from behind. Andretti was maintaining the same pace as the leader of the race and trying to keep from dropping one lap down before INDYCAR waved the blue flag, ordering the Andretti Autosport driver to move over and let Sato by.

Andretti did not move over and continued racing in front of Sato believing he was holding his racing line and not impeding the leader’s progress. After several laps, however, INDYCAR black-flagged Andretti, forcing him to serve a “drive through” penalty.

Andretti was able to fight back to an eighth-place finish on the lead lap and thought the issue was over until he was fined $2,500 and placed on probation for the next three races.

INDYCAR also fined Andretti Autosport $2,500.

Andretti was in front of race leader Sato after he was punted by teammate Carlos Munoz early in the race. Andretti Autosport did not want to bring Marco into the pits because he was the third quickest driver on the track.

Sato’s general manager, Larry Foyt, thought Andretti was using “team tactics” because Sato’s main competition at that time was Andretti teammate James Hinchcliffe. At one point Sato led Hinchcliffe by 4 seconds, but that lead evaporated quickly once Andretti was in front of him.

“You mean that [explicit] fine?” Michael Andretti said when asked for a response to the penalty. “He (INDYCAR President of Competition Derrick Walker) is accusing us that we were doing that on purpose. All Marco was doing was trying to stay on the lead lap because his race wasn’t over. It was only Lap 12. You are going to fight to stay on the lead lap because he had a shot to win the race if the yellow came out. I’m very, very disappointed about that.

“When they told us we asked, ‘What if Hinch (Hinchcliffe) wasn’t in second and it was another car. Would you have called it?’ They said, ‘Oh yeah, we would have called it.’ Now, they say we were holding them up?

“What they tend to do here is make the rules up as they go along and that is very disappointing.”

Marco Andretti said with 70 laps to go in the race he was “fighting for my life.”

Walker contends that INDYCAR was listening to Andretti Autosport’s radio communication and heard the team talk about having Andretti slow down Sato so Hinchcliffe could catch the leader.

Walker said the penalty was for refusing to follow an instruction by Race Control. Walker admitted to creating a new rule so the last car on the lead lap could be given the blue flag.

Michael Andretti refused to comment when asked if penalties such as this damaged INDYCAR’s credibility to make consistent calls from Race Control.