IndyCar star Helio Castroneves isn’t having a good year. The Brazilian fan favorite hasn’t won since the Motegi race in 2010, which has many fans wondering if he’ll be back driving for Roger Penske in 2012. Worse, the federal government won’t let charges of income tax evasion drop, and the IRS is after Castroneves for another $6.21 million (on top of the $5 million he’s already paid). As if that wasn’t enough drama, Castroneves recently found out how expensive it was to question the judgement of IndyCar chief steward Brian Barnhart on Twitter.
After calling Barnhart a “circus clown” on Twitter, and later deriding him in a Brazilian newspaper, Castroneves was fined $30,000 by IndyCar. Barnhart called Castroneves’ comments “ridiculous,” and warned the driver that comments like Paul Tracy used to make would draw fines like Paul Tracy used to get.
Castroneves’ anger stems from a call made by Barnhart during this year’s Motegi race. When Castroneves passed another car under a local yellow, his penalty hardly matched the crime; instead of being forced back into his previous position, Castroneves was dropped from seventh place to 22nd place, becoming the last car on the lead lap. The penalty is even more ludicrous considering the look-the-other-way attitude of Barnhart towards other drivers, like Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti.
I have no idea of the politics involved in IndyCar, but from the fan perspective, this much is clear: Brian Barnhart has to go. When punishment varies more by driver than by incident, it’s clear that the series’ chief steward has lost his objectivity. While we’re cleaning house, let’s get rid of CEO Randy Bernard as well, since the series has only gone downhill since he took the reins in 2010.
Bernard vowed to step down if the ratings for the season-ender didn’t top last year, so let’s hope he keeps his promise. For the dozen or so hard-core fans IndyCar has left, anyone would be a better choice to run the series.