Graham Rahal - Anne Proffit photoEnlarge Photo
The third and final caution period in last weekend's 38th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach went all wrong for second- and third-generation drivers Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti, respectively. Shortly after the second caution restart this duo were battling on the track, coming to the eighth corner on the 22nd lap when Andretti tried to make a pass. Rahal moved to the right to block and sent the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone machine flying into Turn 8's tires.
After looking at the tapes of the incident, INDYCAR president of competition and IZOD IndyCar Series race director Beaux Barfield decided the onus fell on Rahal's move that damaged Andretti's car and ruined both of their races. He placed Rahal, driver of the No. 38 Ganassi Dallara/Honda/Firestone Indy car on probation through the next six events for blocking and initiating avoidable contact.
"Due to the inability of the No. 38 car to continue the race, a review of the on-track actions of Graham Rahal became a post-race issue," Barfield said. "All stewards have reviewed the incident and have decided that the on-track actions of Graham warranted probation, because of driving that endangers on-track safety and adversely affects competition."
Rahal's probationary period - provided he exhibits non-conflicting behavior - ends following the June 23rd event on Iowa Speedway's 0.75-mile oval. If improvements are not met, INDYCAR may impose other penalties, at its discretion.
According to the IZOD IndyCar Series rule book's No. 9.3.2, a driver "must not alter his/her racing line based on the actions of pursuing drivers to inhibit or prevent passing. Blocking will result in a minimum of a black flag 'drive through' penalty." The following rule, 9.3.3 states a competitor "must not initiate or attempt to initiate avoidable contact that results in the interruption of another competitor's lap time or track position."
Rahal may protest the penalty in accordance with the rulebook.
Following the incident both drivers engaged in a war of words, with Rahal declaring Andretti "wasn't going to make the corner no matter what. He was going to shoot long… how deep we were, because he was already braking." Andretti countered by stating, "There's one thing blocking, but there's another thing chopping. That was a chop."
Later, Rahal stated Andretti's actions came about because of his name, and received a Twitter message to talk about it with patriarch Mario Andretti. Apparently, those two had a discussion about the incident and moved on; INDYCAR felt it appropriate to penalize Rahal for his actions.