Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
January 4, 2012
THE MODERATOR: Good morning. Welcome and thank you for joining us for today's announcement. We'll begin with formal statements from our participants and then do a Q&A.
I'm pleased to introduce Randy Bernard, CEO of IndyCar, and Beaux Barfield, who has joined IndyCar as the race director for the IZOD IndyCar Series.
I'll turn things over to Randy.
RANDY BERNARD: I'm proud to introduce Beaux Barfield as our IZOD IndyCar Series race director and president of competition.
He'll begin with this organization immediately. Beaux has a strong reputation throughout the motorsports community, most recently with ALMS. We believe he brings the right level of expertise to our sport as out chief official for the IZOD IndyCar Series. In fact, he started off with a driver in open-wheel racing including Indy Lights before transitioning to an officiating role.
His first task as a race director will be to lead a rewrite of our rule book. I strongly believe we need a rule book that is balanced. 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 producing a new V6, displacement of 2.2 turbocharge using E-85 fuel. We believe we have a lot of opportunity in 2012.
Some of the things I want to say, when I met with several candidates for this position, some of the things that made Beaux stand out was the fact, first I thought he was very articulate, very forward thinking, and the fact of his experience. I think it's very important that this man has been a chief officiator for another series, and I think that is very important. We need to make sure we do whatever is in the best interest of our series.
Very proud to be sitting here with Beaux today.
BEAUX BARFIELD: I want to thank you. I am honored to be taking the role of race director of the IZOD IndyCar Series. Growing up as a racing driver in America, I think everybody looks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 and wants to be here. It absolutely represents the pinnacle of my aspirations in racing from a driving standpoint and even when my career transitioned into officiating.
I obviously, with my experience, have sort of developed a reputation and kind of an officiating philosophy that I think sets me apart enough that I appreciate the job I'm here to do but have confidence that I can come in here and make a difference.
I really want to thank Randy and the Hulman-George family for giving me this opportunity.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.
Q. Beaux, how unique a situation is this? Like Randy said, this is almost like a clean slate. What kind of challenge is that for you and how excited are you about that aspect?
BEAUX BARFIELD: Obviously the attraction for me coming into this is taking something that obviously requires some fix and some change. To be able to come in with the ability to write rules and really start off from the ground up is a great opportunity.
Q. Beaux, one of the big controversies a couple years ago was Edmonton. It's been going on for two years. You're a road racer. This invisible line in the middle of the track, the guy not having the ability to defend his line, are you going to take that serious? That seems to be the drivers' number one complaint. Why do we have this rule? Do you have any feelings about that particular rule itself?
BEAUX BARFIELD: Do I have feelings about blocking? It's like a drivers meeting already (laughter).
I'll give you an explanation about where I've been on blocking and where I stand on blocking:
Really it kind of is a representation of my overall officiating philosophy. That is from the beginning when I started officiating, we as an officiating crew made zero calls on blocking. The following years, based on fan and driver input, we called everything on blocking. Both, in retrospect, were absolutely wrong. Both from an officiating standpoint were very easy to call. But I can tell you from an officiating standpoint the easy way out, the easy way to call it isn't the answer.
Ultimately, as I mentioned fans and drivers, we have a product to produce. The absolute black-and-white rules that most of us long for aren't really compatible in real life and in racing. So it requires an official that can communicate and articulate the gray and enforce it accordingly.
Lines drawn on the track, I'm not a fan of. There will be latitude for drivers to defend their position, but when it gets to the dangerous side, calls will be made. I've called plenty of blocking penalties in the last several years.
Q. Doesn't sound like you're afraid of controversy at all. You'll run into some. You've developed a reputation. What would that reputation be? How would you describe it?
BEAUX BARFIELD: I don't want to speak for my competitors. But the messages that I've received for the last 24 hours from team members and drivers where I come from are really overwhelming. I've had great support.
I think it's very important from an officiating standpoint to not look down at your constituency. I've had great, productive working relationships everywhere I've officiated.
I look at drivers and team managers as peers; I treat them as such. You move forward at times with relationships that you know are going to be adversarial. You sit down, have conversations that you know are going to be difficult, try to find benefits for everybody involved when you have such a relationship with your people.
Q. I'm not sure if this is a question for Randy or for Beaux. You're president of competition as well. Inevitably there may be rivalry between manufacturers this year. You've had experience with that in the ALMS. If Manufacturer C said, We want more turbo boost because Manufacturer A and B are beating us, is that going to fall under your realm?
BEAUX BARFIELD: From my perspective, there's two parts to that:
Number one, my primary focus is what happens on track. What happens on track tends to be very irrespective of who's driving the car, of car number, of car color, of manufacturer. In a lot of regards that makes my job a little bit simpler. That's the way I go about it, trying to simplify things.
Unfortunately, I might be throwing my friend Will Phillips under the bus and say that's probably going to be his task to deal with.
RANDY BERNARD: I think it's important that there's a line from Will and Beaux and Brian. There's still going to be a lot of roles where Brian is going to be track inspection, research and development. Event schedules are going to fall under him. The fact is that everybody is going to have to work together to make this work.
This is a big job. Brian has done a great job with it. There's competition in operations. I think it's time we should divide and split them and really focus and really try to take our sport to the next level. I think that was the whole reasoning for doing this.
The fact is these guys will have to work together in a big way.
Q. Beaux, you've refereed at various tracks around America. Refereeing in Indianapolis, the results of what you call gets international attention. How do you look at that?
BEAUX BARFIELD: I don't think anybody can put real words to the emotions that we all get when you come to a place to the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
I was fortunate last year to experience something that I would put in a similar league by going to the 24 Hours of LeMans. The emotion there it's tangible. You can feel it every time you go into the place.
I certainly respect that as much as anyone else in here does. But ultimately when the green flag drops, I have to put those types of things aside, much like a racing driver does, focus what's happening on the track.
I still revert back to, It's a racetrack, there's racecars going around it, I have to trust my gut and instincts to make the calls that are necessary to keep things safe and ultimately communicate the product that we all desire.
Q. Beaux, how long is your contract? Who is your boss? Do you have the final say with on-track controversy?
BEAUX BARFIELD: You sound like you could be my manager asking all those questions (laughter).
Contract, one year. My boss is sitting to my right. And, three, I do. That's something that is worth elaborating on. I'm a race fan. I happen to be fortunate enough to be a professional in the racing environment. But I'm a race fan.
I've been involved with other series, but I've always watched the IndyCar Series. Obviously in watching I form opinions about things that have happened. I try to make assessments of things we might be able to improve. For my own learning, whatever the case might be, I'm always analyzing things I see in racing.
In looking at what's gone on here, in talking to people inside race control, I think ultimately the steward structure, the lines of how people make decisions regarding race control, might have gotten blurred along the way. I shouldn't say 'might have been,' they've certainly been blurred along the way.
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 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.
As much as I talked about there being a lot of gray, I need to be very clear about that, so I manage those expectations. I establish those expectations, I manage those expectations.
If you and me sat in race control and looked at a replay of any incident, chances are you and I might disagree exactly how that should be called. If I have somebody influence that final decision that might have a different opinion or philosophy from exactly what I've explained to the drivers, then suddenly we have a problem because now we've made a decision that really has deviated away from the drivers' 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.
Q. How many people are going to be in race control? Is it going to be yourself and a former driver, somebody who can also help see what's happening, or are you going to have a committee up there? Obviously some of these decisions have to be made instantaneously.
BEAUX BARFIELD: Stewards, as I mentioned, are a good safety net. I have kind of a steward concept that I'm not totally prepared to roll out yet. There are some stewards that I have in mind that certainly have driving experience, that I think as stewards sort of provide input from many different directions.
It's important to have stewards that have different backgrounds, such as team management or driving or maybe even people that have been out as officials that can give you a broad perspective or different perspective or any given item.
Q. One of the criticisms of late in this rule book has been the volume of gray area. You spoke very succinctly about gray areas being necessary in the rule book. Is there too much and is there some specific area of the rule book you'll start with first?
BEAUX BARFIELD: I think there will be general changes. I wouldn't say absolute wholesale. You have to be careful of that.
When we all sit in a room like this and discuss philosophical rules, we can make sense. We all long for black and white, as I've said before. 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.
That really speaks to kind of the way that I answered the question about blocking. There's a balance. I've been from one extreme to the other. If it's too open and ambiguous, you get yourself into trouble. If it's too wordy and too specific, you get yourself into trouble. It's that fine officiating balance that you find that people can work with.
Q. Beaux, what has been the toughest decision, controversial, you made in your career?
BEAUX BARFIELD: I don't know about controversy (laughter).
You know, nothing honestly. Something should jump out in my mind and I'm sure I'm drawing a blank, and when I think about it I'll come up with something.
Every call you make has controversy based on what I've kind of discussed. If you have people on different sides of any officiating decision you make, some people benefit from it, some people don't. Therefore, you're always essentially selling somebody good, bad or indifferent on what that decision was whenever you make a decision in race control to convince them: This is my philosophy, this is how I arrived at this decision.
I don't have any one thing that absolutely jumps out at me that I lose sleep over - thankfully.
THE MODERATOR: That concludes today's press announcement. Thank you to everyone for joining us today and your continuing support for IZOD and the IZOD IndyCar Series.
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