Castroneves Indy Win Upheld
July 3, 2002 | 12:00 A.M. EST
In an 11-page decision released today to the public, George determined that the decision by IRL officials as to the placement of the race cars at the commencement of the yellow caution period immediately after an accident on Lap 199 "is a judgment call and is not protestable nor appealable under the Rule Book."
George also concluded that League officials were correct in determining that Castroneves' No. 3 car was ahead of Paul Tracy's No. 26 car on Lap 199 when the yellow caution period commenced, and that ample evidence supports that determination.
Team Green, owner of Tracy's car, protested the finish of the race to IRL Vice President of Operations Brian Barnhart, who denied the protest. Team Green then filed an appeal of that decision. Under League rules, George chose to personally handle the final appeal by conducting an all-day hearing June 17.
Representatives of Team Green and Penske Racing appeared at the hearing, along with IRL officials.
"The fact that the race ended under yellow was not the fault of anyone involved in this proceeding," George said. "How it is handled, however, does reflect directly on the participants. In my opinion, this proceeding has highlighted the quality and integrity of the work done by Brian Barnhart and his staff, both during and after the race, and has also shown the quality and integrity of the personnel employed by Team Green and Penske Racing."
Under Rule 11.2 of the 2002 Indy Racing League rules, the decision whether a car passed another car during a yellow caution period or any matter which involves the exercise of judgment by the officials during an event "may not be protested or appealed and the decision of the officials is final and binding."
"To second-guess the officials either for calling a yellow caution or for their placement of the order of the cars is not allowed under the rules and for good reason," George said. "Judgment calls must be final, and that is the only way to conduct a motorsports race."
The information presented to George showed that Castroneves was leading Tracy at the time Race Control called the yellow caution period by radio; at the time the red flag with yellow cross (pits closed) was displayed; at the time the yellow dashboard light system was activated; at the last scoring time line before the yellow caution period commenced; and at the time the yellow dashboard light radio on car No. 3 received the yellow light signal.
George noted that, in "real time racing," a yellow caution period begins when Race Control calls it on the radio, a consistent practice since the Indy Racing League started.
"There is simply no alternative for the IRL officials when running a race," George said. "There is no instant replay in the Indy Racing League Rule Book. The drivers are instructed to react to the first notice they receive of a yellow caution condition, whether a yellow flag, a yellow track light, a yellow dashboard light or Race Control radio instruction.
"The reason for immediate reaction to a yellow caution is for the safety of the drivers and safety personnel since it signifies an unsafe track condition," George said. "We have several overlapping modes of communication as backup to each other since any can fail or be delayed. These modes of communication are not integrated to initiate at the exact same point in time because they can't be, and attempting to synchronize them exactly would delay the warning system and defeat the objective of maximizing safety."
Team Green contended that Tracy passed Castroneves before the track light turned from green to yellow. It was the finding of George that the track light was one of several systems in place and that there was clear evidence that other caution notices had been given before any pass was made.
Penske Racing contended that Castroneves was ahead when the caution was called and that Castroneves immediately slowed. The decision noted that Castroneves had more than a gallon of fuel remaining after having completed the 200 laps of the race plus a victory lap.
George noted that there were five yellow cautions called during this year's Indianapolis 500, all for the safety of the drivers.
"Officials must use their judgment in making these calls," George said. "The IRL officials do not have the benefit of instant replay, telemetry data or any other device to make their judgment. Rather, when they call a yellow caution period on Race Control radio, they immediately determine the placement of all of the cars from visual observation and from observation of television monitors in Race Control.
"That is precisely why the Rule Book states that the decision whether a car was improperly passed during a yellow caution period may not be protested or appealed," George said. "This is a determination Barnhart must make at the commencement of every yellow caution period during every race for every car on the race track, whether the caution period commences on the first lap, the last lap or any lap in between."
The whole process, George said, has increased his respect for both Team Green and Penske Racing.
"I wish that I could make them both happy with my decision, but unfortunately that can't be the case," George said.