Green, Penske wait for decision in appeals hearing

Tuesday, June 18th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ The Indianapolis 500 may finally be coming to end.

After three weeks of controversy and a six-hour appeals hearing Monday, IRL president Tony George will decide whether Helio Castroneves remains the race champ or the title should go to Paul Tracy, who finished second May 26.

Barry Green and Roger Penske, the car owners, agreed Monday to waive their right to any further appeals, meaning George's decision will end the debate that has raged since the race ended under a yellow caution flag.

``This appeal is final,'' hearing administrator Dave Mattingly said. ``I think with what the parties have agreed to, I think they will let that course run.''

George, who was expected to leave for an overseas trip late Monday or early Tuesday, is expected to make his decision in the next 10 to 30 days.

Green and Penske declined comment, scooting out the back door of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's administration building when the meeting finally ended in late afternoon.

Tracy, a CART driver, testified in person during the closed hearing, and Mattingly said Castroneves, an IRL driver, also testified although Mattingly did not say whether Castroneves attended the meeting or how many witnesses were called. Castroneves raced Sunday in Fountain, Colo.

Green left the building with his hands full of exhibits.

``I think both sides will be very professional and will let Tony deliberate and make whatever decision he thinks is appropriate,'' Mattingly said. ``I am totally confident what he decides will be fair.''

The controversy began when Tracy passed Castroneves on the second-to-last lap of last month's race. An accident behind the leaders brought out a yellow caution flag, and Tracy's pass was ruled to have come after the yellow was shown.

Track officials ordered Castroneves be put back in the lead and he became the first repeat winner at Indianapolis since Al Unser in 1970-71.

Green protested the result and a week after IRL vice president Brian Barnhart upheld his own decision, awarding Castroneves the victory, Green filed the appeal.

Green has argued that Tracy completed the pass before the yellow came out. He said last Thursday that after sifting through information and interviewing witnesses for three weeks, he believed his case was even stronger.

On Monday, he finally got to make his case in front of George.

``I think the arguments you've heard in the past were similar to the arguments that were made today,'' Mattingly said. ``Brian Barnhart stated his position and then Barry Green was allowed to present whatever he wanted to present and then Roger was able to present whatever he wanted to present.''

Mattingly did not characterize the arguments that were made but called the atmosphere ``relaxed'' and ``casual'' and the presentations ``professional.''

A victory has not been overturned at Indianapolis since 1981 when Bobby Unser crossed the finish line first and was later assessed a one-lap penalty for passing cars under yellow. Track officials then awarded the victory to Mario Andretti.

In October that year, 4 1/2 months after the race, officials took away the penalty making Unser, who drove for Penske, the winner again.

Castroneves gave Penske a record 12th Indy 500 title as a car owner in May.

The question now is whether he will remain the champion.

``We had a productive day, and Team Green and Penske Racing had an opportunity to present everything they wanted,'' Mattingly said. ``Now it's in the hands of Tony George.''