Thankfully, Brian Barnhart has been removed as from IndyCar race control. While not personally responsible for all of the problems in IndyCar race control, as Captain of the ship that has been race control, he is ultimately responsible for the poor officiating that has recently plagued the series. In order to solve the problems of race control, there was no other choice to be made. Barnhart had to go. The removal of Barnhart is not the end of fixing IndyCar race control, it is simply the beginning of the process.
If Barnhart was not IndyCar race control’s only problem, then what else must be addressed? The rules that race control enforces are on issue. Some of the rule book is too vague and too much discretion is given to the Chief Steward. While there needs to be some discretion on the part of the Chief Steward, that discretion cannot be allowed to override the rule book at his will. Rules such as the blocking rule (in my opinion a no defending rule) must be reinvestigated and changed if necessary. Enforcement of the rules must not only be consistent, there must be the perception of consistency. IndyCar race control has indeed been perceived to be inconsistent by many. You can argue that you are consistent all that you want but if there is a perception of inconsistency, you still have a problem. Communication between race control and the teams must be improved, there cannot be a repeat of what appeared to happen at Loudon where information from the drivers and crews on a safety issue reportedly failed to be passed on to race control. It is time for IndyCar to look at using a “instant message” sytem like the ALMS and F1 have used; it will allow instantaneous and documentable communications directly between the officials and the teams on the pitwall.
It would be wise for IndyCar to take this opportunity to reconstruct race control from the ground up. They can start from a clean slate. Due to the investigation of the Dan Wheldon tragedy, there may not be the opportunity this off season to revisit the rule book but the inconsistency and communications can certainly be addressed before the 2012 season begins. A new set of stewards is the right place to start.