OPINION: Penalizing Power in Detroit was the wrong call

IndyCar, IndyCar commentary — By on June 5, 2014 11:26 am

I’ve had a chance to take a closer look at the highlights from race 2 at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit, and I’ve reached the following conclusions: my original stance was incorrect, Will Power should never have been penalized, and if we as fans and observers of the sport are going to climb onto social media and squeal at every little thing then we need to make darned sure that we’re sending IndyCar consistent messages about the type of racing we want to see.

Here’s the highlights package from IndyCar:

Coverage of the incident involving Power starts roughly 20 seconds in.

Having taken a step back and looked at it again, here’s what I see: Power jumps into a massive gap, and by the time he gets up next to Newgarden he’s not only fully beside him but slightly ahead of him. Yes, Power claimed a lot of track for himself on exit of the corner, but it looks as though he was on a trajectory to leave room for Newgarden — albeit while making life difficult for him — and it was reasonable of Power to expect that Newgarden knew he was there. Clearly, though, Newgarden didn’t — he maintained his line as if nothing had happened, and he was the one who turned into Power, taking himself and Rahal out in the process.

I understand why people want to see Power penalized, and I understand the collective sigh of relief when it happened on Sunday. He does seem to have gotten away with a fair bit this season, and the fact that the series title sponsor is on his sidepod has created a wave of conspiracy theories.

But in this specific case, it looks as though Power did nothing wrong except capitalize on an opportunity and flat-out race hard. I fear, though I sincerely hope this is not the case, that those in Race Control, in the backs of their minds, saw an opportunity to quell the rumors of conflict of interest by doling out a penalty that was going to be popular and jumped on it.

(And here’s what leads my mind in that direction: check out the same video above at 1:35. See how Briscoe wedged his nose in there and tried to make it three-wide? That move had absolutely zero hope of working, and Briscoe still didn’t cop a penalty. Curious how that move didn’t pull a black flag but the one from Power did. Makes you think, doesn’t it?)

So, those of us sitting on the outside need to think hard about the messages we’re sending to IndyCar about what we want racing in the series to look like — especially now since the series seems more concerned than ever about making sure its product appeals to the fans watching in the stands and at home. And it wasn’t all that long ago that we felt unheard when we were screaming from the rooftops about the insane blocking rules that essentially meant that a leading car was obligated to move over for the car behind it or face a penalty. Now, we’re back to a culture where the racers are able to race again largely without fear of recourse, and we’re telling IndyCar we’re not happy with that, either? It makes no sense.

The great drivers in history didn’t make their names by quietly turning laps — it was their ability to hang it all out and take brave chances that made them heroes. We’re starting to see glimpses of that kind of racing in IndyCar again, most notably lately from Will Power. We would all be well-advised to let Race Control continue on their current course of keeping penalties to a minimum if we want to see more of it in the future.

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