INDYCAR Fires Back At Will Power

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 27 2011

Will Power will pay for his gestures. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Will Power’s “flippant” behavior at New Hampshire Motor Speedway has earned the IZOD IndyCar Series championship contender a $30,000 fine from INDYCAR officials, who also placed the Team Penske star on probation for the season’s remaining five races.

Power flipped-off Race Control officials with both hands after crashing out of the rain-shortened MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 on Aug. 14 at NHMS. Power was cited Thursday for “portraying unsportsmanlike conduct” – improper and profane gestures toward Race Control – following a Lap 217 restart that went awry because of a slick racing surface.

Because of the public display, INDYCAR officials said Power will be able to work off the fine by making a series of public appearances on behalf of the sanctioning body throughout the remainder of the season.

“While the circumstances around the checkered flag were highly unusual, they do not justify this type of behavior, especially in a family-friendly environment,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations, INDYCAR. “Emotions always are on display in our sport and we know these actions are not indicative of Will’s normal behavior.”

Power has the option to protest the penalty under terms of the IndyCar Series rulebook. A protest/appeal may result in an increase, decrease or no change to the penalty. Instead, Power apologized for a second time in a statement released by Team Penske.

“I accept the penalty administered by INDYCAR and I understand that the series has to make a reasonable effort to ensure that this type of behavior will not be repeated by anyone else in the future,” Power said. “I have expressed my feelings about the incident that prompted my poor behavior and I’ve apologized and continue to regret the inappropriate gesture I made as well. Now, I am just looking forward to getting back on track this weekend and trying to earn the best possible results moving forward for Team Penske.”

Additionally, Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, released a statement admonishing its driver.

“Team Penske does not condone or approve of the actions taken by Will Power in the aftermath of the restart that was subsequently aborted in the race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway,” Cindric said. “Clearly Will, like many of the drivers in the field, was very frustrated with the decision that was made by Race Control to restart the race under dangerous conditions and he let his emotions get the best of him. The team has addressed this incident with Will and we are ready to move forward.”

Power, who started 13th, wound up fifth in the series’ return to the 1.025-mile oval in Loudon, N.H., for the first time since 1998. Rain directly caused two separate extended caution periods and factored into the controversy surrounding the finish.

After running the previous 10 laps under the caution flag for moisture on the track, officials called for a restart on Lap 217 of an event scheduled for 225 laps. As rain continued to fall, Danica Patrick’s car spun in front of Power and contact from behind sent Power’s No. 12 Verizon Dallara/Honda into the inside wall. The accident, which involved several other cars, effectively ended Power’s race; he lost his temper after exiting the car.

INDYCAR officials eventually called the race and ruled the finishing order would reflect the positions before the ill-fated restart. The decision resulted in Power’s eighth top-five result in 13 races this season. Power managed to make up some ground in the championship chase after points-leader Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing was involved in an accident and finished 20 th.

Power is second in the standings, 47 points behind Franchitti heading into qualifying today for Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

On cue, points-leader Dario Franchitti topped the time sheet Friday during the opening practice session for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Franchitti posted a time of 1:19.4269 in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda around the 2.303-mile, 12-turn road course.

Championship runnerup Will Power was second at 1:19.5633 with Penske teammate Helio Castroneves (1:19.6638) third in the No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Dallara/Honda. Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry, was fourth (1:20.0421).

Giorgio Pantano, filling in for the injured Justin Wilson in the No. 22 TranSystems/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing entry, was fifth (1:20.1292). Sebastien Bourdais (1:20.2283) was sixth in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America car fielded by Dale Coyne Racing.

The 75-lap race is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. (EDT) Sunday. Television coverage will begin at 4 p.m. on VERSUS. The race also will be broadcast by the IMS Radio Network.

Ho-Pin Tung is aiming to become the first driver from the People’s Republic of China to race in the IndyCar Series during this weekend’s Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. Tung, from Wenhou, China, is driving the No. 88 Mouser.com Dallara/Honda for Schmidt Dragon Racing after testing with the team last week at Infineon Raceway.

“The track is very technical, with many differences in height, really challenging,” Tung said. “This circuit requires an intelligent approach. I am very excited about the chance being offered by Mouser, Motegi Wheels and other partners to race at Sonoma.”

Tung, 28, attempted to become the first Chinese driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 in May. Though posting competitive times during practice in a Schmidt Dragon Racing entry, a crash on Pole Day ended his attempt to qualify for the 100th anniversary Indy 500. Tung sustained a concussion in the crash, ending his Month of May.

“I am thrilled that we were able to give Ho-Pin the opportunity to get into an IndyCar again this season,” said Jay Penske, owner of Dragon Racing. “After showing so much promise in Indy this past May, I can’t wait to see what he can do in Sonoma.”

Tung currently is in his second year as a Formula One test driver for the Lotus Renault GP team, helping to develop their 2011 R31 car.

“Our team is pleased to have been able to facilitate this program for Ho-Pin Tung that gives him another shot in 2011,” Schmidt said. “He was the model of consistency at Indy. It was a shame he couldn’t compete in that event, but we’re thrilled to be partnering with Dragon Racing to make this happen.”

Sports car ace Simon Pagenaud is subbing at Infineon Raceway for series regular Simona de Silvestro, who is attempting to work out Customs and Border Protection issues concerning her re-entry into the United States from Switzerland.

Pagenaud was testing a Peugeot sports car in Spain when his manager, Derrick Walker, asked him to head to California at the behest of HVM Racing owner Keith Wiggins.

Pagenaud, who competes in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup for Peugeot Sport, is scheduled to drive No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy car until de Silvestro returns.

“It’s my job and what I love to do,” said Pagenaud, who has competed in two IndyCar Series races this season for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing _ both as a fill-in for injured drivers Justin Wilson (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course) and Ana Beatriz (Barber Motorsports Park).

“As everybody knows, I want to be in IndyCar next year so when an opportunity like this comes up to drive for HVM it’s an opportunity I really need, especially with a good team like this one. It’s unfortunate what happened to Simona and you obviously never wish to have this situation.”

After testing at Infineon Raceway last week with 19 other IndyCar Series drivers, de Silvestro traveled to Switzerland to visit with family and friends. Upon attempting to return to the U.S., she encountered a technical issue with Customs and Border Protection. HVM and INDYCAR are working to resolve the situation.

“It’s an unfortunate situation,” Wiggins said. “We could never have imagined this kind of an issue going into a race weekend and it just adds more challenges to our 2011 season, but it’s in the team’s best interest to continue our program. We’re lucky to have another world-class driver like Simon Pagenaud who’s willing to step-up and work with us to achieve a successful result.”

Willy T. Ribbs, winningest African-American driver in history, will return to the cockpit of a race car for the first time in a decade to compete in the Firestone Indy Lights race at the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend.

Ribbs will drive for the team that carries his name _ Willy T. Ribbs Racing _ in Baltimore. He decided to jump back behind the wheel after coaxing from friend and business partner Chris Miles of Starting Grid, Inc.,

“Even though I have been out of the car for 10 years, I have never ‘officially’ retired,” Ribbs said. “Chris said he got the idea for me to race again when he heard Wally Dallenbach say during an IndyCar broadcast that he was going to drive a Lights car in Edmonton.

“For whatever reason, Wally didn’t do it, but the more Chris kept talking to me, the more I got pumped up about racing again and Baltimore is the perfect place to do it. I’m sure the consensus will be that I should not be racing against these young guns, but as Chris reminded me when the [Sprint] Cup boys come down and race in the Trucks and Nationwide Series, no one seems to mind. So I told Chris, ‘Done deal, I’m in!’^”

Miles, a principal in Willy T. Ribbs Racing, facilitates opportunities for minority participation within all facets of the motorsports industry through Starting Grid, Inc. In partnership with American Honda, Starting Grid, Inc. facilitated the formation of Willy T. Ribbs Racing, which debuted in May with driver Chase Austin in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A key emphasis behind Ribbs’ return is to garner additional exposure for Starting Grid, Inc.’s diversity initiatives, in hopes of securing additional funding for Willy T. Ribbs Racing.

The second annual Firestone Twin 275s – a pair of 114-lap IZOD IndyCar Series races under the lights – highlight the June 2012 racing calendar at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. TMS president Eddie Gossage announced the track’s schedule during a “No Limits” fan event at The Palladium Ballroom at Gilley’s Dallas on Tuesday.

The Firestone Twin 275s will be run on June 9. Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Will Power of Team Penske each earned a victory this past June in an event featuring a controversial blind draw before the start of the second race. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series again will complement the IndyCar Series event weekend.

INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard issued the following statement regarding Danica Patrick’s decision to go fulltime racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series beginning in 2012:

“Danica has always been a great ambassador for INDYCAR, and there is no doubt she has left a positive impression on our sport. She has touched millions of fans and many that were new to motorsports. Danica attracted a fan base that every athlete and sports property in the world would love to have. We should give her a great farewell the rest of this season as she opens a new page in her career and wish her continued success with her new direction. ”

This is what Randy Bernard really wanted to say:

“Bar tender, line up the shot glasses – and keep pouring.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 27 2011
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