Walker claims final word in IndyCar race control

IndyCar’s new president of competition said Sunday he was in

agreement with acting race director Brian Barnhart to penalize

Dario Franchitti in the first race at Toronto, then later overturn

the call.

Derrick Walker also said he has final authority on all calls in

race control during a candid interview Sunday with The Associated

Press about specific officiating decisions in Saturday’s race.

Walker believes IndyCar officiating needs to be more consistent,

and the series needs to urgently invest in upgraded technology to

improve race control.

The most glaring call Saturday, in the first of two races around

the street course at Exhibition Place, stripped Franchitti of a

third-place finish while he was participating in the post-race

celebration. Penalized for blocking Will Power on the final lap,

the call was overturned two hours later following an appeal from

Franchitti’s race team.

”Brian ultimately consults with me on the calls,” Walker said

in outlining the nine-person race control room in which Walker has

final authority.

”In this instance, Brian and I were in agreement on both

aspects – that it was a penalty, and then after reviewing it, in

agreement that you need to be able to stand up and be big boys and

say `Hey, you did get third place after all.’ If we were not in

agreement, or Brian thought otherwise, ultimately I would say to

Brian, `I think we should let him off.”’

Walker, who took over his job at the end of May, said the

decision to penalize Franchitti was based on the only camera angle

they had access to in race control. It was a head-on shot that

showed Franchitti appear to move to the left to block Power, then

swing back to the right when Power adjusted to the other side.

With nothing else at their disposal to review the call, race

control hurriedly issued a 25-second penalty that knocked

Franchitti out of third. He was informed by a team member after

he’d already accepted the trophy and was about to participate in

the celebratory champagne spray.

”We’re seeing the podium evolve and we’re giving (Franchitti) a

penalty and we don’t know how to stop (the podium),” Walker

said.

Once IndyCar officials returned to their at-track operations

truck, they were met by several Target Chip Ganassi Racing team

members with data to prove Franchitti didn’t block Power.

Franchitti arrived an hour after the race to make what Walker

called ”a passionate presentation.”

Ultimately, officials were finally able to get two camera angles

– one from Power’s onboard camera and an aerial shot – that proved

Franchitti was innocent.

”IndyCar needs to invest some money in new technology,” Walker

said. ”The competition has gotten better and IndyCar needs to

invest some money in equipment, so we can be the kind of

organization (the fans) want us to be. That’s not just being the

village policeman, but being able to look at all of those

views.

”There’s a lot of cameras around this place, not all of them

get beamed into our race control. We’re limited and some of our

screens are too small and not all of them are in high def. And HD

makes a big difference. We actually need to completely revise what

we’ve got and upgrade it.”

Walker said the lack of cameras were behind the decision to stop

warning teams mid-race about driving with more than two wheels over

the curbs.

He explained that tire barriers had been removed from certain

corners to prevent drivers from running into them and bringing out

lengthy yellow flags. The result was drivers were driving straight

across the curb, ”which is very dangerous,” Walker said.

IndyCar started the race issuing warnings but quickly gave

up.

”We get into the race and the camera view wasn’t always facing

there so we could see the cars,” Walker said. ”Almost

immediately, we realized we couldn’t even police it. So we sent a

note saying, `Guys, knock yourself out on the curbs.’ But last

night we decided we had to stop them from doing that. We tried the

honor system and that didn’t work, so we put the tire (barriers)

back out.

”Now it’s on them to stay off of them because if they run into

the tires, they are going to bring out yellow.”

The issues came about on a weekend in which Barnhart returned to

race control for the first time since the 2011 season finale. He

was summoned for the role on no notice Thursday, Walker said, when

current IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield couldn’t enter Canada

because of an immigration issue.

Although the paddock supports Barnhart, he’s much maligned among

fans who are critical of his officiating. Franchitti implored fans

on Twitter on Saturday night to lay off Barnhart, arguing it was

not an individual decision by Barnhart to issue the penalty.

Walker also said Barnhart was fine.

”I think he was a little apprehensive to start with, not

knowing how he’d be received,” Walker said. ”He’s giving it his

best. Nobody has all the answers and he’s got a lot more support

now then he had back then. He was a lone wolf back then and he did

his best then, but now he’s got a lot more support. There’s a

different atmosphere about the place, it’s about working together

and team spirit.”

Walker acknowledged that Barnhart and Barfield, who will return

to race control at the next race, have different officiating styles

and that Walker ”is still trying to understand” Barfield’s style

after Barnhart held the job from 1997 until 2011.

”Beaux has a lot of experience, he has a different style in

dealing with it,” Walker said. ”He does a lot of one-on-one in

dealing with people, a lot of personal contact. So it’s just

different styles and doing things in different ways. I’m not saying

which one is better because I am the new guy on the block.”

But Walker said the series is not consistent enough for his

liking.

”We need to be better, and better needs better tools and better

procedures,” Walker said. ”It’s not as simple as it looks.

There’s a lot of work that goes into it and this is a lean, mean

machine. We don’t have a ton of people doing these jobs. We have

good employees. We just need more of them and a direction on where

we are going.”

Among the other things Walker said is IndyCar decided to use a

standing start in Sunday’s race because ”we could hear the boos”

from the crowd in race control when Saturday’s standing start was

aborted. The series was only scheduled to try standing starts on

Saturday.

”The fans told us they wanted it, so let’s do it again,”

Walker said.