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Was the 2009 IRL Texas 550 Fixed? (**Updated)

June 9, 2009

While sitting in watching Round 6 of the current IRL season from Texas Motor Speedway something quite irritating popped into my head (apart from the incessant ad-breaks).

Ryan Briscoe – once again driving an impeccable racing for Penske – was leading by around 11 seconds (just under half-a-lap) and had lapped everyone up until Tony Kanaan in 8th place.

No problem there; I remember sitting through the Schumacher years of Formula 1 when he pulverised everyone repeatedly, but then on lap 150 the stewards through a full-course yellow… for debris on track, thereby closing the entire field up. Now I must agree with Pressdog on this occasion by calling bullshit – this was a crude trick taken directly from NASCAR’s big book of cheap thrills. In NASCAR, they don’t bullshit though; they call them “competition caution” – an open and deliberate ploy to close the field up if someone is too far ahead; in the IRL, they call the “debris cautions”… hmmm.

In the long run, Briscoe got passed by his team-mate Helio Castroneves for the win in the pits and Briscoe came a close second, but this came about purely because the “debris caution”. I doubt there was any call to make sure Castroneves won, but that they wanted to bring the field together for a “close finish”.
There are many folks calling the IRL’s bluff on this – there’s a lot of unhappy folks that felt a race win had been stolen from Ryan Briscoe. Let’s hope this get nipped in the bud, as we don’t need NASCAR type rules in open wheel racing.

*edit:
Grumble… grumble… grumble…
As a follow up to this post, IRL official, Dave Lewandowski has released a statement to counter the many complaints raised following the phantom debris on lap 150. According to the release, there were loosened bolts and marbles on track on the outside of turn 2 that had been spotted by the trackside safety crew and the stewards acted upon those notifications – which is sensible considering the deaths of drivers Tony Renna and Paul Dana are still fairly fresh in the series’ history.

However, I still would like to debate why it took longer to tidy up stray tyre marbles than clear a three car pile-up at the start of the race. Commercial breaks, pit-stops followed by more commercial breaks anyone?

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