When Brian Barnhart was assigned away from Race Control after a turbulent 2011, most of us had one simple request of whomever would be his successor:
Please, no messes.
In essence, the best sign you can have from Race Control is a certain amount of anonymity. Brian Barnhart was a divisive figure during his tenure in that position, and while the vitriol aimed at his performance from Robin Miller all these years seems almost painfully exaggerated, there can be little doubt that incidents such as the infamous restart on a wet track at New Hampshire or the safety vehicle still on tracking during the start at Baltimore did little to instill confidence in the fan base.
We’ve heard the arguments, of course, as to why these events happened, and yes, Barnhart’s job was not performed in a vacuum. I’m not here to damn or beatify the man. But right or wrong, as race director, the buck has to stop right there. And now, with Beaux Barfield being announced this week as the new race director for the IZOD IndyCar Series, the buck will now be stopping at his desk.
Wherever fans fell in terms of blame or understanding for Barnhart, Barfield is coming into a position where the objectives couldn’t be more transparent. Help get the rulebook tightened up, with better definitions. When penalties happen, be consistent, be fair, and be able to relate that consistency so the fan understands it. But above all, keep things on the track clean, and avoid the barest hint of controversy. If Barfield’s name isn’t out there each week having to explain why Item A or B happened, that’s a win. Sometimes, the little battles are the most important, and lead to far greater victories over time.
If it were easy, anyone could do it. But that doesn’t mean the goals for Beaux Barfield won’t be crystal-clear. As race director, your decisions either get in the way of or enhance the racing. If we’re not hearing Barfield trying to explain himself after each weekend, that’s a very good sign for the new race director and the Series.