Barfield ready to rewrite IndyCar rules
Beaux Barfield is bringing a plan to the IndyCar Series.
He'll tighten the rules, create a more consistent penalty structure and change the way he communicates with teams.
Series CEO Randy Bernard introduced Barfield as the new race director during a news conference Wednesday. Barfield accepted a 1-year contract to replace Brian Barnhart, who was criticized by drivers last season for what they deemed arbitrary calls.
Barfield wants to change that perception. He says he will continue to call blocking, though he intends to use the same penalty in the first race as the final race unless it's a repeat offense. He wants to use instant messaging to communicate with teams during races rather than radio communications. And he'll get to write the rules the way he wants them, too.
Understanding a driver’s passion, point of view and mind-set will be an asset, according to Beaux Barfield, who was introduced Jan. 4 as the new Race Director and president of competition for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Barfield’s been behind the wheel – from beginning karting at age 12 to Indy Lights competition.
The 40-year-old Texan, who had served as Race Director of the American Le Mans Series since August 2008, will be the series’ chief competition official. He’ll oversee all on-track activity, enforcing rules and procedural issues, among other responsibilities relating to the competition and safety at each event. Barfield takes over for Brian Barnhart, who was Race Director since INDYCAR’s first race in 1996. Barnhart remains as president of operations.
“My dad was involved in club racing while I was growing up and it sort of took on a life of its own for me and that was all I was interested in,” said Barfield, who finished third in the 1993 Formula Ford 2000 championship to IZOD IndyCar Series team owner Sam Schmidt.
The next year, he was runner-up to Anthony Lazzaro in the Formula Ford 2000 (winning three oval races) championship. Barfield competed in a couple Indy Lights races in 1995.
“During that time, I found myself like a lot of these guys do coaching and teaching just to keep myself at racetracks,” he said. “Through teaching and coaching (at the Panoz Racing School in Georgia) I came across Chris Kneifel, who was the Champ Car Race Director for a number of years. I got the opportunity to be the Race Director of the Formula Ford 2000 series and Chris told me to jump on the opportunity to get some experience. The next year (2003) he hired me as the steward of Champ Car. I was the assistant to the Race Director when it was Kneifel and then it became Tony Cotman, and I was the Race Director of various supports series (Atlantics, Trans Am series of Formula BMW).
“That experience allowed me to get to know a lot of the drivers and people who are in the INDYCAR paddock today. My driving experience counts for a lot when you’re in the heat of the battle making difficult decisions in Race Control.
“The one thing that I wanted to do as a racing driver growing up in America was to be involved with the Indy 500. When my driving career took a change of course and I found myself officiating, it was still a goal of mine to get to Indy car racing and the Indy 500. In that regard, it represents the pinnacle of my aspirations as a race official. I’m truly honored to be a part of INDYCAR.”
Barfield’s off-season priority list is topped with finalizing the competition rulebook and compiling the Race Control team.
"I think there will be general changes (to the rulebook)," he said. "But if you essentially put too many words in any given rule as an official you paint yourself into a box. That's what you really have to be careful of.
"Ultimately, I don't want to walk in here like I'm wielding a big stick and gun slinging. I think the decisions come down to the Race Director, period, end of story because ultimately I have to sit in the drivers' meeting and explain to the drivers exactly what my expectations are.
"I absolutely have the final say. Stewards I think more are there for a safety net and to help and assist when you get into a difficult call or difficult situation."
The IZOD IndyCar Series’ opener is March 25 with the eighth Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He’ll also attend testing sessions, which begin Jan. 16, as teams and drivers get acquainted with the new chassis and turbocharged engines from Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus.
“Though Beaux comes from sports car racing, his roots are in open-wheel racing,” INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard said. “He has built a strong reputation as Race Director with ALMS and bringing him on board ensures that INDYCAR has a dedicated Race Director with the right level of expertise for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"INDYCAR has a very bright future ahead of us in 2012 and I would like to think this is the start of a new era with a new car, the first one in eight years, as well as with three engine manufacturers. We believe we have a lot of opportunity in 2012."
Inside Race Control
All facets of race organization come together to provide a safe, competitive and timely event. The Race Control staff takes full advantage of a range of video and audio monitoring, electronic data and contact with teams and trackside race officials to oversee all aspects of competition. The roster (as set up for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season):
Race Director: The senior official for all practice sessions, qualifications and races. Calls starts and restarts and issues penalties.
Race Steward: Aids the senior official in the overall supervision of the event. Reviews incidents and interpretation of the rulebook.
Driver Coach: Offers officiating assistance to the senior official. Watches the event in real time and offers opinions of replays and reviews when applicable.
Fire Controller: Dispatches safety units, including the Holmatro Safety Team vehicles, wreckers, firemen and medics.
Chief Observer: Serves as the primary contact for the network of observers at events. The observer network serves as an extra set of eyes for the Holmatro Safety Team.
Voice of Race Control: The primary communicator to all teams, the starter, pit lane officials and the pace car during all on-track sessions. Also controls the dash light safety system. Every team monitors the race control frequency, which is a listen-only channel. IndyCar.com