(by Robin Miller speedtv.com 11-29-11)
After a season of non-stop controversy, including starting a race in the rain and a lack of consistency in applying on-track penalties, Brian Barnhart has finally been removed from Race Control in INDYCAR.
SPEED can report that Barnhart will be offered to stay on the payroll as president of operations but will no longer have anything to do with the officiating or managing of IZOD IndyCar Series races.
INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard was unavailable for comment but indicated a few weeks ago that some major changes were forthcoming.
In addition to removing Barnhart as chief steward and director of racing, Bernard is also replacing Terry Angstadt with Mark Koretzky, who served as director of business development for IndyCar in 2011.
Angstadt had been president of the commercial division of the IndyCar Series since 2007.
Barnhart and Angstadt were also the last major links to Tony George’s old Indy Racing League regime.
A former mechanic in CART for Roger Penske and Rick Galles who was named director of racing operations by George in 1997, Barnhart had been under fire from drivers, teams and fans the past couple seasons.
From his insistence on spread-out, single-file starts at the Indianapolis 500 and other ovals to judgment calls that drew the ire of veteran drivers like Justin Wilson and Oriol Servia to starting a street race in Baltimore with safety trucks still on the track, Barnhart had lost all respect inside the paddock.
And it all came crashing down last August at Loudon, N.H. when he ordered a restart while it was raining and a pileup ensued that caused major carnage and instant anger.
Will Power, taken out in the accident, raised both middle fingers to Barnhart up in Race Control and declared: “This has got to be it. They cannot have this guy running the show. He makes such bad calls all the time.”
Bernard fined Power and defended Barnhart at the time but knew a change had to be made for 2012 and beyond.
The possible candidates to replace Barnhart are former CART driver Scott Pruett, ALMS chief steward Beaux Barfield and longtime CART team owner Steve Horne, who has maintained all along he’s not interested in a full-time job.
Tony Cotman, the program manager of the new car who ran Race Control in Champ Car before being hired by George to oversee Indy Lights in 2008, would be a logical successor but wants to concentrate on his race track design business.
Angstadt took his position with the IRL after serving as vice president of marketing for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and was instrumental in landing IZOD as the title sponsor of IndyCar in 2010.
Before joining IndyCar, Koretsky worked with the NFL as director of operations for multiple Super Bowl committees in Atlanta, Houston and Detroit. He was in charge of the week-long championships last month in Las Vegas, which included a parade of cars down The Strip and various parties and fund raisers.