At least the days of double-secret penalties are behind us in IndyCar (as far as we know). So we should be grateful for that.
Unfortunately, we still get minimal information about penalties, such as this news release kicked out re: “Dale Coyne Racing for a pair of technical violations on its No. 18 Verizon IndyCar Series entry driven by Carlos Huertas,” presented in its entirety:
For Immediate Release
GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON POST-EVENT INFRACTIONS
INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, July 2, 2014) - INDYCAR announced today post-event infractions from the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston Race 1, which was held June 28 at Houston's NRG Park.
INDYCAR officials have fined Dale Coyne Racing for a pair of technical violations on its No. 18 Verizon IndyCar Series entry driven by Carlos Huertas. The entrant was found to have violated Rule 188.8.131.52 (Rear Wing Height) and Rule 14.7.2 (Fuel Cell Capacity) of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook. The team was fined a total of $10,000 - $5,000 for each infraction. INDYCAR officials determined that the infractions did not impact the finishing order of the race or final position of the offending team.
The members may contest the imposition of the penalty pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
(End of news release)
I’m actually amazed that the release even included the “INDYCAR officials determined that the infractions did not impact the finishing order of the race or final position of the offending team” statement.
How tough would it have been to toss in facts that dribbled out in various follow up stories, including that the overage was 0.1 gallons (13 ounces) and that the car passed pre-race tech but flunked post-race tech for the random reader who doesn’t know how these things work? Or even (let’s get crazy!) a quote from Derrick Walker saying the car had x-amount of fuel left in it at the end, so that’s more than the overage, so not a big deal. Or information that tells us that because they thought the violation was not intentional, they only wacked them for just $5000?
In my opinion, more information serves everyone — IndyCar, Coyne, readers — better and limits a bunch of rumors and insulations and random speculation.
A PR guy I worked for had a saying: “if you have to eat a turd, don’t nibble.” In other words, get all the bad news out there all at once, so you can eat that turd in one setting. Dribbling out bad news means you nibble on the turd. Get it out and get in front of the story and limit its lifespan in the news cycle.
But, the Coyne fine release was actually an improvement on the NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS vibe to these penalty releases, such as this one issued after the Texas Motor Speedway race, again in its entirety:
For Immediate Release
INDYCAR TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY POST-EVENT INFRACTIONS
INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, June 11, 2014) – INDYCAR announced today post-event infractions from the Firestone 600, which was held June 7 at Texas Motor Speedway.
- INDYCAR officials have fined KVSH Racing driver Sebastien Bourdais $10,000 and placed him on probation for the remainder of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. The member was found to have violated Rule 9.3.1 (Improper Conduct On-Track) of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook during an incident with Justin Wilson on Lap 121 of the event at Texas Motor Speedway.
- INDYCAR officials have fined Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing $5,000 for a technical violation on its No. 67 Verizon IndyCar Series entry driven by Josef Newgarden. The entrant was found to have violated Rule 184.108.40.206.1a (Rear wing angle).
- INDYCAR officials have penalized Honda a total of 30 Engine Manufacturer Championship points for violation of Rule 16.5.1 (engine change under mileage). Honda engines were changed out in the Nos. 14, 25 and 28 entries. Each occurrence is a 10-point penalty incurred by the manufacturer.
The member may contest the imposition of the penalty pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
(end of release)
Sorry, Bourdais and Wilson fans, the allegations against Bourdais for conduct that altered the outcome of the entire race are ... NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS. Improper conduct happened on Lap 121, and unless you remember it from being there or watching on TV, or can go back to the DVR and hope TV caught the entire incident, you don’t get to know. To me, that sounds like: just take our word for it, drop your money off at IndyCar, sit on the couch and watch every race, and shut your cake holes.
On top of that, apparently there was actually no violation after all, since Derrick Walker rescinded the penalty (again without every saying just exactly what it was for, as far as I know) a couple weeks later. So it’s kind of convenient that we still don’t know (at least I haven’t seen anything beyond speculation) what the exact allegations against Bourdais were, so we can’t discuss whether or not he got screwed by the penalty or Wilson got screwed by Bourdais and screwed again by the rescinding of the penalty. Move along. Nothing to see here.
Legit question: why should fans expect to know these details? Why can’t we just enjoy the racing and stop being so negative? After all, don’t get to know who is hired and fired and penalized at other businesses. True, but 1) sports aren’t like other businesses and 2) these penalties impact the product that we’re asked to consume. Who gets fired in the marketing department at Proctor and Gamble doesn’t impact the quality of Tide we buy. Sports ask us to care about them faaaar more than P&G asks us to care about Tide, and when sports organizations don’t care enough about us to be straight on penalties — beyond the minimum-required-by-law approach — then that damages the relationship (at least with me). You don’t care about fans, pretty soon they don’t care about you.
Bottom line: No, IndyCar doesn’t have to go beyond the bare-minimum approach to penalty releases. They don’t even have to kick out penalty releases at all if they don’t want to. Many of the remaining IndyCar fans seem OK with the “take our word for it” approach or have no interest in penalties at all. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion. No beef from me. But, there’s so much upside to a more complete disclosure of penalties that I have no idea why they don’t do it, especially when the penaltiy concerns a race-winning car. Maybe they didn't want to say what Bourdais was accused of, so he wouldn't be besmerched, and there wouldn't be a big stink about it, etc. etc. I'd rather see full disclosure and let Bourdais' and his PR squad refute the allegations or not.
Maybe it's just a cagy way to generate more stories in the media as reporters try to chase down Derrick Walker and get him to talk about what the charges are. Still, it leaves fans hanging. Maybe I’m in the vast majority (again) here, but “take our word for it” don’t work well for me.