Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Controversial Call

by Tammy

I had another blog topic picked out and ready this weekend ... but then I watched the IndyCar race at Sonoma. The bump-fest, new-nose-festival, yellow-flag party that was the Go Pro Grand Prix.

And then there was THE CALL.

The two leading drivers, Will Power and Scott Dixon, were pitted one after another. Dixon, in the rear, pulled out first as a crew member crossed between the two cars carrying a tire. The tire in the crew member's hand and Dixon's side pod and left rear tire made contact. The tire spun out of the guy's hand and he went flying into another crew member, who also fell over and dropped the air gun in his hand, which flew over and banged into a third crew member's leg. They're all fine.

The question was, who gets a penalty. Did the crew member deserve some fault for not paying enough attention or for making himself as wide an obstacle as possible? Or did Dixon bear all of the blame because the rules say you get a penalty for hitting another team's equipment? (Here's Jalopnik's funny take on the incident, with a video.)

Cue the wailing and gnashing of Twitter teeth. And the wringing of hands by the television commentators.

In the end, Beaux Barfield up in Race Control penalized Dixon for hitting the other team's equipment. He was (to his credit) available immediately after the race to the media for an explanation, saying that the overhead camera showed Dixon to be in Power's space.

Cue more wailing and gnashing of teeth, because the only lines laid down in the pit lane are for the NASCAR race, and there aren't painted lines for the IndyCar pits. Plenty of calls for crappy officiating, etc.

My opinion is that there are hard decisions to make, ones that not everyone will agree with, and sometimes ones that don't have a right/wrong answer. And one guy has to make them. That's Beaux. He owns them and is willing to explain them. And he knows more than I do about how the pits and the cars and the rule books work. So I'm going with his call.

Also, I live in California where a pedestrian always has the right of way—ALWAYS. Even when they dart out in the middle of the block. The pedestrian is always right and the car driver is always wrong. So I get that even if the crew member was deliberately being an obstacle (which I don't think was the case, I think he just wasn't being as thoughtful as he could have been), the driver who hit him gets the penalty.

But plenty of other people disagree. What do you think? Did you see it? Do you have an opinion?


  1. I'm probably in the minority, but I think dixon was at fault. In replay, at least to my eyes, dixon invaded the penske space. I think barfield made the right call. It was tough for scott to have to take a penalty, but I think it was justified. just glad the crew members are ok. also, i think its ridiculous to suggest that the crew member was intentionally in the way. sure, every team wants to win, but isn't pit lane dangerous enough (and i think this incident shows that it is) without purposefully placing oneself directly in the path of a racecar? good job beaux.

  2. I think it was a combo of things. Will Power stopped short in his box and Dixon was over, so there wasn't a box length between the cars. the wheelman wasn't paying attention. Personally, it was a knock for knock racing incident.

  3. I'm a little surprised, and more than a little disappointed, that there is even a debate about this. Power's crewman was doing his job, fully in his pit box, inches away from his own car. Dixon's car, under Dixon's control, hit the crewman/tire. Dixon MUST get a penalty.

    Items that are irrelevant: Dixon was leading the race. Dixon is fighting for the championship. Dixon had been using that exit line previously. Crewman wasn't watching Dixon's car. Crewman was carrying tire on left hip. Crewman wasn't moving as fast as possible. So on and so forth.

    Now, if people want to discuss altering pit procedures to improve safety, then those items may become relevant. Regarding Sunday's race and the penalty call, race control was spot on. In my mind that was a very easy call to make.

    I'd bet my paycheck that if it had been Indycar first-timer Lucas Luhr getting a penalty for hitting a crewman in the adjacent pit, then it would be the least controversial call of the season.