BALTIMORE – Shortly after finishing third in Friday’s practice session for the Grand Prix of Baltimore IndyCar Series race, second-year driver Josef Newgarden made the inevitable quote, “It’s like a Sauna out there.”
The high heat and humidity in Baltimore, though, doesn’t compare to the intense heat that is still generated between Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske after last week’s incident on pit lane involving Ganassi driver Scott Dixon and Penske right-rear tire changer Travis Law on the final pit stop of the race.
Five days after Dixon hit a tire Law was carrying while Will Power was making his pit stop has still led to some heated words between the two teams.
Dixon was penalized for hitting pit equipment – a violation of the IndyCar Rule Book and was assessed a Drive Through penalty, which dropped him from the lead to 19th place before he finished 15th. Power inherited the lead and went on to win the race to break a 25-race winless streak dating back to Sao Paulo in 2012.
The penalty was costly in the points race as Dixon would have been six points behind Helio Castroneves but enters this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore 39 points out with four races remaining.
Dixon contends Law held the tire out and carried it into his car and made little effort to get out of the way while Team Penske contends Law was simply performing his regular pit stop duties and Dixon drove through Power’s pit area and into Law’s area.
It was still the topic of conversation in the Baltimore Convention Center that serves as the Paddock Area for this weekend’s race.
“I think the right call would have been to penalize both drivers because Dixon was at fault for driving through Power’s pit and Power’s crew member was at fault for carrying the tire in a way that it impeded Dixon’s exit from the pits,” said fellow team owner Michael Andretti. “That would have been the fair thing – penalize both of them because they both did something wrong.”
Of course, Andretti is just offering a neutral opinion but INDYCAR officials made a change to the pit area for this weekend by adding point-of-reference “courtesy zones” to the outside edges of each pit box. It is designed to “aid in monitoring pit stop conduct and etiquette in the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.”
The courtesy zones are defined by 45-degree dotted lines as part of the painted pit boxes.
Also, IndyCar added rule 7.9.178 to the rulebook to “reinforce its pit stop code of conduct.
“Any participant who, in the opinion of the officials, positions a car, equipment, and/or personnel to create a hazard or disruption of the event or to interfere with the activities of another competitor may be penalized.”
Team Penske President Tim Cindric contends that he has video overlay of two pit stops and Law was performing his duties on the pit stops the same on both stops.
His counterpart at Target/Chip Ganassi Racing is Mike Hull, the team’s managing director.
“In a competitive atmosphere emotions bear on statements that you make most of the times but in reality we didn’t hit the guy – we hit a tire,” Hull said. “He happened to be attached to the tire. I’ve looked at the tape since and where the tire was in relationship to the pit box. But the rules are the rules and if you make contact with equipment – we didn’t hit a guy – you get a drive through penalty. The officials need to look at that but I think they are moving in the right direction with the rules they announced today and how they are going to look at it going forward.”