- Associated Press - Saturday, June 1, 2013

DETROIT (AP) - IndyCar rescinded $10,000 in-race fines levied against Graham Rahal and James Jakes from the Indianapolis 500.

President of competition Derrick Walker, though, told The Associated Press both drivers have been warned about breaking rules for exiting pit road in the middle of last Sunday’s race.

“They went out of the pits and committed a felony, but they put themselves back in position where they should have been before the green,” Walker said Saturday before the first of two races at the Detroit Grand Prix. “They had varying degrees of guilt, and Graham was probably the lesser of two evils on the penalty.”

After team co-owner Bobby Rahal complained about the fines, Walker said a review showed the drivers lined up in their proper positions before the field went green.

“I think that their decision was made during the heat of the moment,” Bobby Rahal said. “And then when you hear from other people and their perspectives, it’s `Oh, well maybe.’”

The confirmation that fines were rescinded was part of a busy Saturday for IndyCar and its drivers. They called a drivers-only meeting in the morning to discuss problems they’re having with officiating, in particular a series of questionable calls made by race director Beaux Barfield.

Team Penske driver Will Power said he has tried to focus on what he can control while IndyCar has made some puzzling decisions.

“I think with Derrick Walker, things are going to be more clear,” Power said Saturday before finishing eighth on Belle Isle. “It’s a tough job the guys at IndyCar have because they’ve got drivers, team owners and promoters to please and no one agrees on the same thing.

“The IndyCar guys are put in a pretty difficult position _ all the time _ to make decisions that are right decisions for the series.”

Walker, who started his new job earlier in the week, attended the early portion of Saturday’s meeting with Barfield.

“Our meeting on Friday, quite frankly, it didn’t go well,” Walker said in an interview with The AP. “It was a fragmented conversation. One of those meetings that the drivers just were not satisfied with, so we went back in there (Saturday), asked if we could go back and clear the deck. Beaux stood up, said his peace, and it was just a speed bump.

“To say it is a mutiny? It’s not that bad.”

The regularly scheduled drivers meeting Friday grew contentious because of caution-filled qualifying sessions.

Drivers complained Barfield was too slow to throw the red flag in Group 2 when Helio Castroneves spun. Some drivers also complained that a local yellow in Group 1 for Charlie Kimball’s spin only affected some drivers because Barfield failed to properly enforce the rule that drivers have to hold their position and must slow in that area.

On Saturday, IndyCar said it will shorten the amount of time to call for a red flag following a local yellow condition. IndyCar also said any driver found improving segment times in a segment displaying a yellow will be subject to penalty, which could include loss of lap time.

It all comes after Barfield was under heavy fire from the drivers for not calling Takuma Sato for blocking in the final laps at Brazil as he tried to protect his lead. James Hinchcliffe eventually passed Sato in the final turn for the win, and has since said Josef Newgarden should have won but was improperly blocked earlier by Sato in a move that was not called.

That shows inconsistency at worst.

A year ago at Texas, Power was penalized as the leader for blocking Tony Kanaan on a restart.

Blocking was addressed by IndyCar in its Saturday bulletin when the sanctioning body clarified that going further, “Drivers moving in reaction to pursuing Drivers will be subject to review for blocking. Where the driving line permits, Drivers defending their position must leave room for the pursuing Car.”

Barfield also rescinded two penalties this year at Long Beach that he levied against Oriol Servia, one during qualifying and one during the race. Both were overturned after the team appealed.

Walker, who has a background in team ownership and management and not race control, likened criticism of IndyCar officiating to playing armchair quarterback.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Walker said. “Race control is the football of the paddock, in that everybody wants to kick it around. Our job from here on out is to tighten our belts and stop getting kicked around.”

The drivers already seem to calmed by Walker’s presence, but he said the true test when come after he’s penalized one of them.

“I’m here to help bridge the gap. IndyCar belongs to all of us,” Walker said. “Gossiping and talking about all of this rubbish doesn’t do any of us any good, and doesn’t help us attract any fans. We need to work together as a group to attract fans. That needs to be the focus for all of us.”


AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.

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