The Verizon IndyCar Series is imposing a bolstered code of conduct for all drivers and teams in the championship.

After the enraging comments from drivers and owners following the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, IndyCar’s Mark Miles said it was “damaging to the sport” and needed to be addressed.

Yesterday, the championship received a revised version of their rule book, specifically the area regarding detrimental competitor conduct, which a number of pundits have suggested could be interpreted as a gag order.

Rule 9.3.8 Detrimental Competitor Conduct states:

Competitors must be respectful, professional, fair and courteous to others. At all times, Competitors must not, attempt to, or engage in conduct or statements that in the judgment of INDYCAR:

  1. Threatens or denigrates any Official, fellow Competitor or the IndyCar brand;
  2. Calls into question the integrity or legitimacy of the Rules or their application, construction or interpretation;
  3. Denigrates the IndyCar Series racing schedule or Event(s);
  4. Threatens or denigrates any IndyCar business relationship, including those with sponsors or broadcasters;
  5. Otherwise threatens the integrity, reputation or public confidence of the sport, IndyCar, or IndyCar Series.

With a set of guidelines that demands respect and courtesy and prohibits criticism of officials, competitors, the rules, how those rules are used, the schedule, sponsors, series broadcasters ABC and NBC, or diminishes an intangible like “public confidence of the sport,” the series has apparently limited its paddock to answers that are neutral or positive.

It begs the question of how is the IndyCar Series is meant to be respected as an international series with a rule that prevents drivers or teams to express their opinions or concerns and can only say neutral or positives?

This is a massive step back in my view.

The drivers or teams are not damaging the sport with their negative opinions. Drivers and teams need to get their points across and could influence in changing things for the better for example to help a driver change their ways, improve the sport or show their character and passion for the sport instead of being a bunch of yes men just saying neutral or positive comments.

For example, sanctioning a driver who says “The calendar is too short or compact, it should be spread out and longer” is nothing more than a joke. It’s not putting down the sport; the driver wants more racing.

In other series’, drivers and teams have the freedom to say what they want, although some would argue that few take up the choice out of fear of the repercussions from their sponsors and managers.

The IndyCar Series need to stop watering down its rules if it wants to return to the level of popularity that it once enjoyed. The racing product is as perfect as it’s ever been with close, hard fought, wheel-to-wheel racing and unpredictable results; it’s these rules and regulations that are letting the sport down.

INDYCAR released the following statement from Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles clarifying IndyCar Rule 9.3.8:

“This rule is not a gag order. We recognize that controversy, tension and drama all have a place in motorsport today. Our drivers are competitors and we have no interest in eliminating the emotion and passion that is an integral part of our sport – or limit the content for media covering IndyCar.

“As an example, some have speculated that the exchange between Ed Carpenter and Sage Karam last Saturday at Iowa Speedway would result in penalty under this new rule – that is not the case. We feel exchanges of that manner do not cross the line and instead highlight the intensity of Verizon IndyCar Series competition. We feel it’s our responsibility to distinguish between irresponsible statements that damage the sport or its competitors and the intense competitive nature of the series. This rule is to ensure we have authority to act when we feel it is required.”

No guidelines were provided for penalties if any section of Rule 9.3.8 were violated.

Image via IndyCar Series

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Michael Terminello

Journalist at MotorsportM8