Saturday, March 3, 2012
IndyCar dismisses boycott talk
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said there has been no talk of a driver boycott at Texas Motor Speedway, and the series will race there as planned this season.
"IndyCar has an agreement to race at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, and will race there for a 16th consecutive season," Bernard said in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday night.
"Never has there been any discussion by IndyCar's drivers about boycotting Texas Motor Speedway. We have so many good things happening in the series, we are not going to let rumors tear down all the positives we have as we continue to move forward."
A report two weeks ago indicated the drivers were discussing boycotting the race over concerns about the fencing at Texas. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon was killed in an October crash when his head hit a post in the fence at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The fence at Texas is constructed the same way as the fence at Las Vegas, with the posts inside the mesh wiring. Texas president Eddie Gossage said Speedway Motorsports Inc. engineers are confident that is the best construction.
The differences flared again on Friday when Gossage was quoted by website Racin' Today that talk of a boycott hurts IndyCar.
"I'm really disappointed and don't know why IndyCar drivers feel the need to constantly damage the sport," Gossage told the web site at a promotional event in Dallas. "You know, engineers have told us over and over that the current fence design is the best that technology provides us today. But if you were a sponsor, if you were a fan, if you were a TV network -- why would you get involved with IndyCar racing if they can't tell you today where they're going to race tomorrow? And the drivers -- the spokespersons for the sport -- are tearing it down?
"So, it's absolutely irresponsible of those drivers, and they deserve -- because of the way they conduct themselves sometimes -- they deserve where they stand now in the food chain of motorsports."
Gossage's harsh comments rippled throughout IndyCar, and Bernard said Saturday he'd spoken to several drivers, including four-time champion Dario Franchitti, about the drivers' position regarding Texas.
"The drivers have asked IndyCar to see the engineering report that Eddie Gossage has cited as evidence that there's nothing to be changed with the fences at Texas," Bernard said. "That's something we'll discuss with Eddie this week."
Gossage told The AP last month he's willing to discuss concerns about the fencing with IndyCar, and the series can add support cables to the existing fence if desired. He also said the apron in Turns 1 and 2 at the track had been paved in response to IndyCar driver's complaints that the surface was too rough.
But he maintained the fencing is properly constructed, and the posts don't need to be moved outside the wiring.
"Our engineers have told us that the design we currently have is what they recommend," Gossage said. "If IndyCar wants to add some cables, we'll be happy to do that. We are all for making it safer."
In the meantime, IndyCar on Friday rescheduled an open test at Texas from this month to May to relieve the burden on teams trying to prepare from the season opener at St. Petersburg. The test will be an attempt to break up the pack racing that led to Wheldon's accident. Drivers Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan tested the new Dallara DW12 on the high-banked oval last month, and Briscoe seemed optimistic IndyCar can break up the pack.
Bernard said Saturday night that's the goal.
"We have an open test, and IndyCar's technical engineers will continue to work with the teams to select the formula that best addresses pack racing," Bernard said.