IndyCar: Brian Barnhart returns to position of race director

Brian Barnhart returns to position as IndyCar race director, although this time he will share that position with two others as part of IndyCar's new three-steward system.

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The role of the Race Director of any motorsports series can be a thankless job full of criticism and controversy. Brian Barnhart knows that all too well from his previous days in that position with INDYCAR, which is why it is quite curious that INDYCAR President of Competition and Race Operations Derrick Walker named Barnhart to that role Wednesday.

Barnhart held that role with INDYCAR from 1997-2011 and there were plenty of controversial decisions made during his tenure. Beaux Barfield replaced him in that role beginning in 2012 but left after last season and is now in that role with IMSA. Barnhart remained as Vice President of Competition, and Walker believed strongly in returning Barnhart to the Race Director role because INDYCAR now operates with a three-steward Race Control system.

Barnhart was one of those three stewards in 2014 in a system that requires a two-thirds vote from the stewards officiating each race.

It should be noted this is quite different than the previous tenure of Race Director during Barnhart’s first term when he made most of the decisions regarding the officiating of the event.

“We believe that based on his extensive experience in Race Control, combined with the three-steward system, Brian Barnhart is a good fit as INDYCAR Race Director,” Walker said. “The process allows the Race Director to focus on running the race, without the double-duty of reviewing multiple replays and simultaneously trying to make a call. In terms of determining penalties, our process defines that a majority vote amongst the three stewards is required, which ensures a jury-like process. Last year we found that this was a fair system when making difficult judgment calls.”

INDYCAR’s Race Control system allows any of the three stewards to call for a review of a potential on-track action. Upon review the stewards will deliberate on the violation using all available resources – which includes video replays, timing and scoring data and rulebook references – in rendering their decision. Following the review each race steward votes for, or against, the issuance of a penalty and the majority vote then decides if a penalty is issued. Once that determination is made, the senior steward, as determined by Walker before each race, dictates the severity of each penalty.

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Barnhart was one of those stewards in the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season and adapted to the expanded system. As Vice President of Competition, Barnhart oversees the Race Control staff, the sporting regulations of the rulebook, the Holmatro Safety Team and medical personnel, security and INDYCAR Timing and Scoring. He has been a part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR since 1994.

“This is a position and a role that I’ve done for a number of years and I take a great deal of pride in being Race Director of the Verizon IndyCar Series,” Barnhart said. “One of the things that excites me the most is the steward system we implemented last year. That was a great advancement in how we review and make discretionary decisions, and having that assistance in making calls is a big improvement to the way we officiate INDYCAR events.

During Barnhart’s previous time as Race Director there were many controversial decisions that angered some of the participants and infuriated the fans. Although he is just one-third of the decision making process in the three-steward system, Barnhart will probably be blamed again but he isn’t afraid to be back in the Race Director’s seat that has been known to get very hot at times.

“The technological improvements we’ve made in Race Control have expanded the amount of information available to us,” Barnhart said. “The additional cameras, the replay system and assistance from other stewards provide us with additional tools to do our job better. I’m excited about this opportunity and look forward to doing it again.”

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