Panel upholds New Hampshire decision, results stay

Posted Aug. 24, 2011, at 7:01 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 24, 2011, at 9:37 p.m.

INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Hunter-Reay is still the New Hampshire winner.

On Wednesday, a three-member IndyCar panel upheld Brian Barnhart’s decision to revert the finishing order to what it had been before the crash-marred final restart on Aug. 14.

Barnhart said after the race it was a mistake to restart on a damp track — a decision some drivers and teams, notably Hunter-Reay and Will Power — had vehemently opposed.

Newman/Haas Racing and Target Chip Ganassi said their drivers, Spain’s Oriol Servia and New Zealand’s Scott Dixon, had passed Hunter-Reay before the yellow flag came out. They believed Barnhart’s mistake was changing the finishing order.

All three drivers attended Tuesday’s hearing, but all three panelists took Barnhart’s side.

“You protest because you think you’re right,” said Mike Hull, Ganassi’s team managing director. “Things don’t go your way every day. In this case, they didn’t go our way. But they did a good job. They took copious notes, they asked a lot of questions.”

Barnhart “had the authority” to make the decision, the panel said in a statement released by IndyCar Series officials. “We also agree that his decision to abort the restart and set the finishing positions that existed before the attempted restart to be an exercise of reasonable discretion.”

Ganassi’s team had two reasons for filing the protest.

Not only would Dixon have picked up some valuable points in the title chase, but it would have dropped Power back in the finishing order, too. Power was involved in the final crash but wound up in the No. 5 finishing spot as a result of Barnhart’s decision.

The change left Power 47 points behind Scotland’s Dario Franchitti, Dixon’s teammate, in the title chase.

Power would have been dropped back at least two spots had Barnhart counted lap 216 and likely more had the race continued, costing him those precious points.

Dixon is third in the points, 73 behind Franchitti. Servia is fourth, 135 back. Hunter-Reay is eighth and trails Franchitti by 182 points.

“Some days you get big points and some days you don’t,” Hull said. “In this case, Will got a good result from New Hampshire and the bottom line is he’s going to race hard, we’re going to race hard.”

If the original decision was overturned, Servia also would have collected his first IndyCar win in 34 starts.

“We lost the protest. The panel states that Barnhart does actually have the power to go back in time,” Servia posted on his Twitter account.

Dixon, Servia and their teams don’t have time to mope about the decision. And Hunter-Reay, a teammate of Danica Patrick’s with Andretti Autosport, doesn’t have much time to celebrate his third career IndyCar win.

All three are expected to compete Sunday in Sonoma, Calif.

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