Indianapolis: IndyCar`s new race director is taking a hard line. Beaux Barfield intends to call blocking, impose more consistent penalties and create better lines of communication between teams and drivers, and he won`t compromise on those issues.
It`s part of an elaborate package Barfield intends to roll out this season after he finishes rewriting the rulebook.
"Obviously, the attraction for me coming into this, is taking something that requires some fixing and some change, and to be able to come in with the ability to write rules and really start from the ground up," Barfield said Wednesday when he was introduced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Barfield replaces the oft-criticized Brian Barnhart, who lost his race control duties in late November though he did retain the title of president of operations.
The new job carries some risk, too.
Barfield accepted a one-year deal. Anything longer, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard explained, would have had to be approved by the board of directors. Bernard also said he wants Barfield to "earn his stripes."
Bernard is hardly putting Barfield on a short leash, though.
The 40-year-old former open-wheel racer will have the latitude to rewrite everything from the rules to the penalty structure. If competitors continue complaining, well, Bernard, understands it`s part of the job.
"There is going to be a difference of opinions sometimes," Bernard said. "What I`d like to see is a true communication with drivers, teams and fans of what`s expected."
Barfield understands the mission.
He spent the past four seasons as race director of the ALMS sports car series and the previous three as a steward in the now-defunct Champ Car circuit, where he worked with some of the current IndyCar drivers.
Those experiences, and Barfield`s own work in the cockpit, have helped shape his philosophy and earned the respect of the drivers.
"That`s something we haven`t really had for a while, someone that`s been behind the wheel," said Graham Rahal, who drives for Chip Ganassi.
Barfield`s immediate plan calls for five to eight people to work in the control tower during races. The final call, however, belongs to Barfield.
Although he can`t clean up everything with less than three months to go before the season opener at St. Petersburg, Barfield believes he can alleviate one of last year`s biggest concerns — inconsistent calls.
"Consistency tends to be a self-serving thing, because it depends which side you`re on," Barfield said. "If you have contact and that`s the first one of the season and you give a drive-thru penalty, then it will be a drive-thru penalty the rest of the season unless it`s a habitual offender."
That should satisfy the drivers who became increasingly upset with Barnhart`s "arbitrary" decisions last season. Among those who complained were two-time series runner-up Will Power and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who race for Roger Penske.
It`s not just the perception that Barfield wants to change.
Rather than using a radio to talk to teams during races, he plans to use the track`s intranet system for instant messaging. Barfield believes that will prevent a repeat of the botched restart on New Hampshire`s wet track, a decision that led to a crash that ended the race. Barnhart later acknowledged he made a mistake and restored the finishing order to what it was before the wreck.
"New Hampshire is the perfect example of a situation that would not have happened as a result of instant messages," Barfield said. "All those messages would have popped right up on my screen, and I would have seen them light up."
But drivers should not expect to get much relief with their biggest complaint — blocking.
"The easy way to call it (calling nothing) isn`t the answer," Barfield said. "When it gets to the dangerous side, calls will be made."
It`s a philosophy drivers can live with.
"I would say we`re going to probably see more penalties, but it`s going to be more equal across the board," Rahal said. "I think what we`ve seen is penalties, but why did somebody get one penalty and somebody else didn`t. I just know Beaux. He`s going to call it as he sees it, no matter who you are, and that`s a good attribute to have in that position."