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Motorsports Commentary - Tweet This - Would You Like Some Cheese To Go With That Whine?

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by Rick Carlton - Senior Motorsports Editor

Austin, Apr. 28, 2012: So, I get up this morning, brew my coffee, proceed to sit down at my workstation and the first thing I see is a press statement from IndyCar. Now, typical Saturday releases are germane to on-track, or sponsor promos, but the content of this missive was curious, somewhat laughable, and timed to arrive at 'o'dark thirty' when most flacks would not be awake, let alone give much of a damn about a three paragraph release characterized as an administrative announcement. To whit;

"INDYCAR has fined and placed Panther Racing CEO and managing partner John Barnes on probation through Dec. 31 for posting a comment using improper or disparaging language in reference to INDYCAR on his Twitter account. The amount of the fine is $25,000.

Pursuant to Rule of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook: Using improper, profane or disparaging language or gestures in reference to Officials, Members or actions or situations connected in any way with INDYCAR, the IZOD IndyCar Series or any Event.

Barnes may contest the penalties pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the rulebook. A protest/appeal may result in an increase, decrease or no change to the penalties."

Hmmmmm, I thought, while using my fingers to force my eye lids open, 'I'd better get out my trusty 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Rule Book so I can see what terrible thing Barnes must have said/done'. However, in the event, and to be frank, my resulting Section 9 research lead to more questions than answers, while triggering the inevitable scraping noise in my head every time I have a bout with some serious teeth grinding. To digress for a minute, and for those who haven't perused the section at length, this set of rules establish the comportment of IndyCar participants, or in short, the 'bad boy behavior' section of IndyCar's rule book.

However, usually some major event triggers the sanctioning body's ire, such as the time that AJ Foyt attacked Arie Luyendyk in the winners circle in '97:

Or the Tony Kannan/Sam Hornish set to at Watkins Glen in '07:

Or Helio Castroneves attempting to physically engage organizers after a win was taken away at Edmonton in '10: But, in this case, Barnes simply 'Tweeted' (and having to use that word in the context of a racing event is pretty embarrassing for a grown man to have to write); "Today is the day to resolve TURBOGATE! I hope @indcar gets their act together. It has been embarrassing." As a professional motorsports journalist who has had many slights thrown my way over the years including, comments from past organizers, various team PR guys, sponsor reps, and my favorite 'personal fan,' His Eminence Max Mosley, who referred to me as a 'pimply-faced propeller head', when Forrest Bond and I announced we had confirmed that hidden Benetton launch control software existed in 1994, I know the difference between a slur and a popcorn fart. So in comparison, Barnes' comment was nothing much, given the history of professional motorsports slurs, and I certainly don't believe that one snarky little comment has ever merited a financial penalty in racing, whether direct or in-direct - until now of course.

Unfortunately, as the axiom suggests, if you 'follow the money,' you'll usually find the source of irritation. In this case, regardless of all of the promotional assertions that tout IndyCar's return to sports prominence, nothing could be further from the truth. Organizers in Indy are continuing to bleed cash along with fans and, as a result, they are not having much fun these days. Truth be told, most of the angst is largely self-inflicted since IndyCar has managed to screw the pooch mightily this season by first foisting an unwanted semi open-wheel car on its audience, then knee-jerking the integration of a new engine formula, plus encouraging a new provider to join the US circus who has generally proven to be unprepared for prime time, while at the same time making up 30% of the series' regular field count.

Then, there are the recent series of incoherient rules decisions coming from IndyCar's Beaux Barfield who pounded the Chevy and Lotus guys at Long Beach on 'principal', then turned around and said that 10 grid engine change penalties would only apply PRIOR to Indy, and AFTER Indy, but not DURING the month May, with the practical impact being that, teams will be able to change engines at Indy pretty much any time they want next month. Finally, if that wasn't enough nonsense, 'IndyCar Officials' (love that phrase, its sort of like saying 'my hand did it'), doubled-down by giving a turbo-cover waiver to Honda/Lotus so their new engines would, at least, have a fighting chance to make the field. Geez, and these guys have the gall to penalize Barnes on the basis of 'improper or disparaging language'? What a bunch of little girls.