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