Editorial

An Unappealing Appeal
George Reigns in GEORGE-town

 by Steven N. Levinson and Mark Cipolloni
July 3, 2002

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Tony George's ruling on the Team Green appeal of this years Indy 500 has resulted in a resounding negative reaction from the motorsports press.  In George's attempt to put an end to this years controversial finish, George's ill-considered decision has created a firestorm of controversy.  By so doing, he has forever tainted the Penske/Castroneves victory, and done irreparable harm to what little remains of IRL's integrity.

In this RPM.ESPN.com article, Robin Miller spells out  the total disregard the IRL and Tony George had for their own rulebook when ruling on this years Indy 500 finish. 

 

Miller: Asked why he bothered to continue with the appeal process, George replied: "Given the circumstances and the fact the Indianapolis 500 is the largest motorsports event, I felt it was important to allow the process to be played out." Played out to the tune of $100,000 in expenses, according to Green, who countered by stating his case was all about Tracy being ahead of Castroneves before any yellow lights came on and he then showed the media a copy of his denied protest on May 26 and the appeal procedure (signed by Barnhart).

 

Comment that document signed by Barnhart said the decision was appealable...to Tony George.  Barnhart signed it, now the IRL says it's not appealable.  Barry Green put it best - "I think Tony George lost his way."

 

Miller: Immediately after the race, Barnhart acknowledged he would use Rule 7.14 as one of the determining factors. It states: "The yellow caution period starts with the display of the yellow flag and/or yellow lights and ends with the display of the green flag and/or green lights. Racing ceases immediately upon display of the yellow flag and/or yellow light. Officials may call a yellow caution period at any time for any reason. Their decision to call, not to call, or end a yellow caution period may not be protested or appealed." But, surprise, surprise Gomer, the IRL is now saying a yellow caution period begins when race control calls it on the radio. In other words, act like the old United States Auto Club (former Indy 500 sanctioning body) and ignore the rulebook whenever it doesn't work in your favor. Racing ceases upon display of the yellow flag or yellow light! Not when two cars first smack the wall or an observer calls in to race control or when Barnhart asks his observers for details.

 

Comment:  Rule 7.14 does not say the caution period starts when they call for the yellow, it states it starts when the yellow light or flag is displayed.  Again, the IRL doesn't understand their own rulebook, making up rules as they go to suit their whim, in this case Roger Penske, Tony George's good 'friend' as Penske described the relationship himself.

 

In legal terms this is called 'Ex Post Facto Laws' - "Any law (in this case ruling) implemented AFTER the occurrence of a fact or commission of an act, which retrospectively changes the legal consequences or relations of such fact or deed." Ex Post Facto Laws are prohibited under the Constitution of the United States, however, the IRL rulebook is not subjected to the Constitution of the USA.  One minute before the 2002 Indy 500 green flag dropped, the IRL rulebook stated that racing ceases when the yellow light appears.  However, since that time and today's ruling, a new standard that does not appear in the IRL rulebook suddenly has taken precedence over and obviated the rule that was clearly set forth in the IRL rule 7.14. 

 

Now racing ceases when Brian Barnhart says it ceases, or in his own mind thinks it ceases.  One has to wonder how Honda and any new team or sponsor will now perceive the IRL's implementation of its own rules since it now appears that any ruling is subject to the discretion of the Chief Steward and his discretion is not subject to an appeal.  Ordinarily, in cases involving Administrative Law Hearings, the only means to overturn a discretionary ruling is to demonstrate that said ruling was "arbitrary and capricious."  We would like to refresh your memory that Honda has already been shafted by IMS and USAC back 95. The year USAC flagged the race green with the pace car still on the track, which the Tasman Team Honda powered car driven by Scott Goodyear passed (they could have kept the caution out and started the next lap), and was subsequently black flagged, and the race was handed to the Players sponsored Ford team and driver Jacques Villeneuve.

 

Miller: Watching George stumble and stammer through his prepared speech was painful enough, but the saddest part is that he didn't sound like he understood the process -- and he was judge and jury. When he realized he didn't have the last page of his notes, he looked to Fred Nation like a third-grader in his first Christmas play and was told to wrap it up. Green said he felt like George had lost his way. I don't think anybody who saw that news conference would disagree.

 

Comment:  And this is the same man who recently said he was going to make the IRL bigger than NASCAR and F1 in five years, the same man who brings his hammer to work everyday.  The same man who split Indy Car racing in two and has practically destroyed the sport.  A very sad commentary indeed.

 

In this Indy Star article, Bob Kravitz has this to say about the IRL Indy 500 appeals process

Kravitz:  "Here's what this was: a charade. A shameful, expensive, time-consuming charade. And it's one that drives yet another wedge into the IRL-Championship Auto Racing Teams split, virtually ensuring that Green will not come over to the IRL next season unless his sponsors take him kicking and screaming. The race is over now. The fight is not." 

Comment: Along with Robin Miller's article referenced above, this is another must read article.   Based on the motorsports press reaction to the decision, this can only be reasonably construed as a major blow to the IRL's integrity and the implementation of its own rulebook.

Rulebooks, rules, and evidence have no place in GEORGE-town.  What Tony George says goes.

The authors can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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