IndyCar installs new pit rules after Dixon mixup
BALTIMORE (AP) — Nothing is going to change the damaging penalty that Scott Dixon received for inadvertently making contact with Will Power’s Team Penske pit crew last Sunday.
The mishap did, however, prompt IndyCar to install new rules involving drivers and the safety of pit crew members.
Dixon was on his way to victory at Sonoma when he received a drive-through penalty with 15 laps to go for clipping a tire in the left hand of a member of Power’s crew. The incident occurred when Dixon’s Honda left his pit directly behind Power’s Chevrolet.
Dixon was livid after finishing 15th, claiming the pit crew member intentionally got in his way. His stance mellowed Friday — to a degree.
“I’m obviously not as angered. I’d probably take back some of the words I used,” Dixon said. “But still, I think the guy was incompetent, not paying attention, and we don’t need that on pit lane. He’s going to cause somebody else harm. I still feel he should be removed from pit lane or some kind of penalty inflicted on him.”
The new rules instituted Friday addressed that concern, and clearly defined where pit crews should stand during the race.
As drivers prepared for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Baltimore, IndyCar added point-of-reference “courtesy zones” to the outside edges of each pit box to aid in monitoring pit stop conduct. The courtesy zones are defined by 45-degree dotted lines as part of the painted pit boxes.
In addition, IndyCar added rule 7.9.17, which reinforces its pit stop code of conduct: Any participant who, in the opinion of the officials, positions a car, equipment, and/or personnel so as to create a hazard or disruption of the event or to interfere with the activities of another competitor may be penalized.
None of that alters the fact that Power won the race and Dixon fell farther behind points leader Helio Castroneves in the Izod IndyCar Series race.
“It just makes it a little harder,” Dixon said. “We would have been, I think, at that point within 4 points. Now we’re 39 out with four races to go. We’ll have to see how it goes. It’s going to be a lot tighter than we would have liked to get it.
“I just hope it doesn’t come to a situation where if we needed those points it would have a totally different story. But you can’t take it back and you can’t change anything, so you’ve just got to truck on and try to make the most of it.”
The new rules seem to have been prompted by last week’s miscue, which to Dixon is like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. The same thing happened last year in Milwaukee when IndyCar officials admitted to making an incorrect call in ordering Dixon to serve a drive-through penalty for jumping a restart.
“It’s tough to swallow,” Dixon said. “Last year in Milwaukee, when I got penalized for a restart that was non-existent, it changed the whole way they look at videos and how they apply penalties on restarts.”
Some of Dixon’s peers questioned the spirit of the call made last week at Sonoma.
“In my opinion, maybe that was a good example of what should have been a non-call,” said former CART champion driver Jimmy Vasser, who owned the Indianapolis 500-winning car of Tony Kanaan. “Because now, if that’s the case, any team can send a kamikaze out there to run into a car and give somebody a penalty that affects the championship outcome. So I think the rule needs to looked at or re-written.”
And so it was.
“We stepped back from the last race and looked at what went on and for sure, we should have had some lines down there, a better defined pit box,” said Derrick Walker, head of competition for IndyCar. “We as officials can see where the cars are in relationship to where they should be in their pit box. It confused a lot of people (watching) on television because there were no lines.”
Mike Hull, managing director of Ganassi Racing and race strategist for Dixon, applauded the new rules.
“The upshot of that is that it helps IndyCar make quality decisions going forward,” Hull said. “So if there happens to be a question, they can more clearly define the answer for us.”
Hull has pulled himself away from last Sunday’s fiasco and turned his attention toward this weekend.
“You’re talking to me, so I’m speaking for the team,” he said. “What our guys do really, really well — and that includes in this case Scott Dixon — he focused forward quickly. If we were to dwell on the past, it would be only to learn to be better today and tomorrow.”