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DATE News (chronologically)
09/08/08
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IndyCar Series explains Timing & Scoring snafu
Upon review of its Timing & Scoring process following the conclusion of Sunday’s race, IndyCar Series officials have confirmed that the transponder on Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car had been improperly installed, resulting in Dixon being shown in the top spot on the Indy Racing League’s T&S system rather than race winner Helio Castroneves.

A review of photos from the Indy Racing League’s state-of-the-art high-speed camera revealed that Castroneves had edged Dixon by .0033 of a second, about 12 inches. The margin of victory was the second-closest in IndyCar Series history.

“The improperly installed transponder clearly affected the data we were receiving from Dixon’s car,” said Jon Koskey, the Indy Racing League’s director of timing and scoring. “With the signal going the wrong direction, it could have bounced off of any number of things and made it difficult for the antenna to pick up an accurate signal. Because there’s always the possibility of electronic equipment failing and the possibility of human error, we have multiple systems in place to insure the accuracy of the data.”

The Indy Racing League’s high-tech Timing & Scoring system is the only one in motorsports that scores to ten-thousandths of a second. Per the manufacturer, the tolerance of the system is rated at .0006 seconds for each crossing or transponder.

Backing up the system is a high-speed camera, which takes a picture every ten-thousandth of a second, recording all start-finish line passings. The league acquired the S/F camera in 2004 as a back-up to the electronic system and uses it after every race to verify the finishing order of all cars. It also is used throughout the race to check close crossings. Additionally, two high-frame-rate cameras connected to a digital video system record video evidence of all start-finish line passings.

Immediately following the conclusion of Sunday’s PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil 300, the camera operator informed race stewards that the photos showed Castroneves’ car in the lead. Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League, reviewed the photos and confirmed Castroneves the winner.

“We’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in this system since 2001 to make sure our timing systems are accurate and provide the officiating staff with the information necessary to make good judgment calls such as this,” Barnhart said. “The primary system includes three parts comprised of a radio transponder mounted in the same location on each car, multiple detection loop antennas buried under the track and timing decoder units that decipher the transponder signals as it crosses the antenna. We back up that system with the start/finish line camera and secondary electronic systems.

“We use the high-speed camera to review the finishing order of every car at every race. It’s not always that close between the top two cars, but we have close finishes further back in the field all of the time.”  Indy Racing League

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