Brian Barnhart returns as head of IndyCar race control

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) IndyCar on Wednesday returned Brian Barnhart to his former role as head of race control.

Barnhart had the same role from 1997 through 2011, but was removed after a controversial final season. He has been IndyCar's vice president of competition in the three years since, and was a key part of the system implemented last season that requires a two-thirds vote among three stewards for in-race penalties.

''We believe that based on his extensive experience in race control, combined with the three-steward system, Brian Barnhart is a good fit,'' said Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations.

As vice president of competition, Barnhart already oversees the race control staff, the sporting regulations of the rulebook, the safety team and medical personnel, security and timing and scoring.

Barnhart has been a part of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar since 1994.

''This is a position and a role that I've done for a number of years and I take a great deal of pride in being race director,'' Barnhart said. ''One of the things that excites me the most is the steward system we implemented last year. That was a great advancement in how we review and make discretionary decisions, and having that assistance in making calls is a big improvement to the way we officiate IndyCar events.''

Barnhart was initially taken out of race control after a 2011 season that saw him publicly criticized for decisions that drivers found to be arbitrary.

Will Power was caught on live television making an obscene gesture toward the race control tower at New Hampshire, and Helio Castroneves called Barnhart a ''circus clown'' in a Twitter rant.

Power was furious when Barnhart decided to resume racing at New Hampshire despite driver protests it was raining too hard. The slick conditions caused a crash on the restart that collected Power, who infamously flashed his two middle fingers toward Barnhart.

About six weeks later, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Castroneves took to Twitter to vent about Barnhart penalizing him for passing under yellow in Japan. He accused Barnhart of ''bringing down an entire series.''

Both drivers were fined $30,000 by IndyCar, but both stood by their convictions.

Roger Penske, the team owner for both Power and Castroneves, lauded returning Barnhart to his former role.

''I think it's good to bring someone in who knows the teams, all the antics with all of us,'' Penske said. ''I know his heart is in it. He was moved aside to take on other roles and responsibilities, but he's never distanced himself too far from that race director's spot. I'm glad to see Brian back on his feet there. I don't always agree with him, but he'll be an asset.''

Penske team President Tim Cindric was also in favor of the move, adding he didn't think IndyCar looked very far in its search for a new race director.

''He's been there before, he's a known quantity and bringing someone in we didn't know is a bigger question,'' Cindric said. ''Brian is somebody we understand, he understands us, and he's the guy. I don't see any other candidates out there who are any better.

''All we as teams want is consistency. It's probably one of the most difficult jobs, a thankless job, but it's also one that puts you right in the thick of it.''

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