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DATE News (chronologically)
09/21/11
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Barnhart: Dario penalized for move
IndyCar chief steward Brian Barnhart said today that Dario Franchitti was penalized in last weekend's Izod IndyCar Series race in Japan consistent with others guilty of avoidable contact in races this season.

With the race under caution for the four-car incident, Franchitti was moved to the back of the field.

Barnhart explained the ruling in an email to The Star:

"Our rules for penalties for avoidable contact are, if the contact results in a full-course caution, the offending car is moved to the back of the line. If the course stays green, the offending car is given a drive-through (pit road) penalty.

"We have probably had close to a dozen avoidable contact rulings this year and most of them resulted in the car being moved to the rear of the line, rather than green flag drive-through penalties. If the driver has failed to move by the time we restart, then they are given a drive-through penalty, as the case with (Ryan) Briscoe at Baltimore.

"(Paul) Tracy at Long Beach, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay at Barber, (Mike) Conway at Toronto, (EJ) Viso at Edmonton, and several others come to mind as examples of going to the back under caution for avoidable contact.

"This is the same issue everyone talked about at Long Beach with Helio (Castroneves) when he took out (Will) Power. It caused a full-course caution and he was at the back after being restarted so there was no official penalty announced, but his positioning was the already same as if one had been issued.

"The basic concept of our penalty is we want the offending driver at the back of the field for his offense. Either way achieves basically the same thing. When Briscoe failed to move prior to the restart in Baltimore, he was assessed a drive-through. The drive-through in effect put him at the same place, in the back of the field.

"Obviously each track is unique and at some you spend more time in pit lane than others, but the penalties assessed are fair and have been consistently enforced.

"If you want to argue if the penalty fits the crime, that is a different topic. It is very difficult if not impossible to make the penalty fit the crime. First of all, I don't want the drivers to be so afraid of an avoidable contact situation they become hesitant to attempt passes. We need to keep the passing component of our sport.

"Secondly, how do you ever make the penalty fit the crime when the driver takes another car out of the event, such as Hunter-Reay at Barber on Briscoe? His contact broke the suspension on Briscoe's car and put him out of the race. Do you then park RHR? Not a good solution.

"Another hard part is we seem to be the only sport in which the party that has a foul committed on them, gets nothing in return. If you are fouled in the act of shooting in basketball, you are awarded two free throws (or 3).If you get your facemask pulled at the end of the play, they add 15 yards, etc. No matter what we do to the offending car in an avoidable contact situation, we can't fix the damaged car or put him back in the race.

"So making the penalty fit the crime is no different than anything else we do, we have to try and find a good balance in the process. Moving the offending car to the back of the line is what we do. If under caution, he moves back behind everyone. If green, he serves a drive-through so he ends up at the back of the line, is effect, the same penalty." Indy Star

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