Tracy's team appeals second-place Indy 500 finish

Tuesday, June 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ All Barry Green wanted was clear evidence that Paul Tracy had not passed Helio Castroneves before a caution light appeared with less than two laps left in the Indianapolis 500.

The more he studied the videotapes and talked to other drivers, however, the more he became convinced that it was Tracy, not Castroneves, who won the world's richest auto race on May 26.

On Monday, the owner of Team Green filed an appeal with the Indy Racing League.

``I owe it to my driver, I owe it to my team, I owe it to my partners, my sponsors, to fight this,'' Green said.

``Our argument is the chief steward made the wrong call on lap 199 as to who the leader was,'' he said. ``After hours and hours of review, my feelings have not changed.''

Tracy was rapidly closing in on Castroneves in the final laps of the race and passed him at almost the same time the yellow came out for a crash involving Buddy Lazier and Laurent Redon.

IRL director of operations Brian Barnhart, who heard an initial protest by Green the day after the race, ruled the yellow was displayed before the pass, locking Castroneves in first place and Tracy in second as the race ended.

``I guess in a way that I was hoping that someone could show me that we did finish second, and I could go away and let it be,'' Green said from his team headquarters not far from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. ``To argue through protest and appeals is not my team's style. But it's because we feel so sure that Paul Tracy won the Indianapolis 500, we have today lodged our appeal.''

The IRL said it had received the appeal but had no deadline for a decision. IRL president Tony George, who has exclusive authority on the appeal, could form a committee to consider the evidence or hold a hearing.

Roger Penske, the owner of Castroneves' car, was in Europe on Monday but was aware of the appeal, team spokesman Dan Luginbuhl said.

He said Penske thought last week's initial protest hearing by the IRL was ``very fair and the officials had made their decision, and so be it.''

Luginbuhl said he had spoken to Team Penske president Tim Cindric after the news conference by Green.

``Tim said, `We really don't have anything to say,''' Luginbuhl said.

Castroneves was traveling to New York for an appearance Tuesday night on David Letterman's ``Late Show'' and was not available for comment, team spokeswoman Susan Bradshaw Crowther said.

Green, who said he expected to be notified within four or five days when the appeal would be heard, based his hopes on what he called ``black-and-white evidence.''

``The frame-by-frame video will show you that Paul Tracy has completed the pass when the yellow light comes on. That is the only accurate evidence that any of us has,'' Green said.

He acknowledged that Tracy was behind Castroneves at the moment the accident occurred, at the moment race officials called for the yellow to be displayed and at the moment the cars crossed the electronic timing line going into the third turn.

But it's his contention that Tracy completed the pass in the split-second before the yellow actually was displayed.

``Paul Tracy has the right to race until the yellow light comes on,'' Green said.

Castroneves said at the time he eased off the throttle when he saw yellow, which allowed Tracy to pass.

There also was a dispute whether drivers first saw the yellow displayed on the track or on the lights built into the cars' cockpits.

Tracy, who drives full time for Green in the rival CART series, won Sunday's Miller Light 250 at the Milwaukee Mile, the first race since Indianapolis.