Rahal and Walker back Barfield as new IndyCar Race Director
Bobby Rahal, whose Rahal Letterman Lanigan team has run BMW’s factory effort in the ALMS since 2009, and Derrick Walker, who took over the factory Falken Tire ALMS program in 2010, have gotten a solid feel for Beaux Barfield’s on-the-job performance as Race Director.
“I think Beaux did a good job at the ALMS,” said Rahal, who inked an engine deal with Honda as part of RLL's full-time return to IndyCar racing.
“That’s a tough deal there," he continued. "You have all the ALMS manufacturers politicking you like crazy and I’m sure you end up feeling like you have a lot of bosses. I don’t think that’s going to change; IndyCar is very challenging and [always] has been. Dealing with the [IndyCar] owners…there are a lot of people who want their voices heard and oftentimes followed, but I’m sure he’ll be prepared for it.
“He’s been around racing for a long time. He’s seen the good, the bad and the ugly, so he knows what he’s getting himself into.”
Walker, who will lead Ed Carpenter's new IndyCar team in 2012, along with the Falken Tire team, also believes Barfield will succeed upon his return to open-wheel racing.
|Derrick Walker (L) with Brett 'Crusher' Murray at the 2005 Surfers Champ Car race|
“I’ve known him since [Walker Racing] was in the [Champ Car] Atlantic Series, so I’ve seen him in a few roles,” he said. “The thing about him, or people like him, is that there are very few with that kind of experience. It’s not the kind of job that many people jump into. It requires quite a lot of experience, and those kinds of people don’t change jobs very often. When you look at it from an INDYCAR perspective, it’s a big gain because to get someone with experience is rather rare.
“In some respects, it might be easier because you don’t have so many categories and so many different rules like in the ALMS,” he said.
“Having been on both sides, he’ll find the ALMS was a picnic compared to what he’s going to now,” he said. “In IndyCar, there’s a different attitude and kind of pressure that comes to bear. The competitive nature in IndyCar breeds a certain ego, or maybe a lack of tolerance for anything less than perfection, and he will have to be on his toes to stay ahead of the pack. One of the things that will be interesting to see is how INDYCAR, as it has changed its structure, also changes the Race Director role as it was when Brian Barnhart held the position. I’m sure it will change a bit, but how much is hard to define until it runs its course.
“And some of it will evolve based on how Beaux tackles the job; it will tailor itself to him a bit, but nevertheless, I think the job will change. It will be an evolution of the job, but he’ll adapt to it. I’ve been to driver meetings in both series, and in the ALMS, it’s easier to play King Kong and tell everybody how you’re going to run the race. There’s a lot more compliance like that in the ALMS…which he isn’t likely to find in IndyCar…”
“Beaux has worked with many of the drivers and team owners over the years; he’s certainly no stranger to the people who race in IndyCar, but I think IndyCar owners are getting a more level playing field because everybody is starting from the same position with him,” said Rahal. “I do think there was the perception [with Barnhart] that some were given the wink and the nod, while others were not. You just can’t have that. You have to have consistency and transparency, and Beaux can bring that. Certainly in the ALMS, we saw that.
“We knew what he was going to do and how he was going to act, and that’s what you want. You don’t want to wonder what a guy in that position is going to do. You want that confidence, and I think he’ll do a good job with that. As the most famous Race Director in North America, Barnhart became a lightning rod for criticism and scorn, but if public opinion has any influence, the role of Race Director will be moved from the foreground to the background.
“As time went on, Brian took on all the commercial stuff too, and I think was more out of default—he was like the last guy standing,” said Rahal. “And I don’t think he wanted all of that, and all the attention that came with it. I think Beaux can simply be the Race Director, he can work with [INDYCAR VP of Technology] Will Phillips and just concentrate on the racing side of the equation.”
With Barnhart out of the public eye, and the departure of Terry Angstadt (who looked after the commercial side of the series), Bernard now has a leadership group of his own in charge of INDYCAR. As the spotlight shines on Bernard and his recruits, Rahal says Barfield might struggle to keep the role of Race Director in the shadows.
“Randy has put his team in place, and there are very few people of the Barnhart era left,” he said. “Now that he has his people carrying out [his] plans and vision, you can expect guys like Beaux to be on the hot seat a little bit because it’s all on them. There are no real ties to [the IRL’s] past, so of course the new team will be under a lot of scrutiny—at least in the beginning.” More at Speedtv.com