INDYCAR KEEPING AN EYE ON CONTACT
By: Curt Cavin, Indianapolis Star
EDMONTON, Alberta - By IndyCar's count, 25 of the 26 cars in the recent race at Toronto made some form of contact.
The Izod IndyCar Series chief steward said that contact was a function of competitiveness rather than bad driving, though there was some of that, too.
"I think in Saturday's practice, we had 22 cars within nine-tenths of a second of each other," Brian Barnhart said. "When the cars are that close, it makes it difficult to pass."
Most of the accidents occurred when a trailing driver tried to go two-wide into Toronto's tight right-hand third turn. When the lead driver didn't hug the left side of the road, contact generally followed.
Barnhart said Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay weren't penalized because the driver each was trying to pass -- Tony Kanaan, Will Power and Graham Rahal, respectively -- were too much in the middle.
"They have to share the racetrack or share some form of the blame," Barnhart said. "That's why we called it a racing incident."
Drivers who ran into the gearbox of other drivers -- Mike Conway and Takuma Sato, among them -- were penalized.
It was in Edmonton last year that defending came under scrutiny and was defined. Apparent race winner Helio Castroneves was penalized for entering a corner on the inside with Power trying to pass him. That lane is reserved for passing opportunities, a rule that originated in Champ Car.
Barnhart understands drivers need to be aggressive, and he expects more of it this week in Edmonton on City Centre Airport's reconfigured circuit that appears to have at least three prime passing areas.
"In the past, if you had a pretty opening (for a pass), you knew you could make it, but now if that door opens and there's 10 percent of the daylight, guys have to go," Barnhart said. "That might be as good of a chance as they'll get, and I think it breeds that type of action."
It's pass or be passed, he said.
"If you're not looking to overtake, you're going to be seen from behind as vulnerable, and guys are going to be all over you," he said. "The hard part of it is, the line between being aggressive and reckless is very thin."