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08.18.11

Second Place Oriol Servia Confident About IndyCar Protest

Indycar Series - Loudon, New Hampshire

Sunday's Izod IndyCar Series finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that produced wrecked cars, angry words and obscene gestures will be dissected Tuesday in a more subdued, courtroom-esque setting.

But Oriol Servia is optimistic the three-person panel that will hear the protest could render a judgment that might be just as explosive as Sunday's controversial ending — handing him a victory that was awarded to Ryan Hunter-Reay when officials elected to negate a final restart.

"I think there's a chance," Servia said Wednesday. "I'm not giving up. If we can convince them of our case, they'll give us a win. I don't see why not." The Newman/Haas driver and his team paid a nonrefundable fee of $2,500 to earn the chance to play Perry Mason in an Indianapolis boardroom, presenting evidence and calling witnesses to prove Servia should have won by passing Hunter-Reay under a green flag on the last restart before a multicar crash brought out a yellow flag.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields the Dallara-Honda of third-place finisher Scott Dixon, is protesting the finishing order and also will attend, as will Andretti Autosport, Hunter-Reay's team.

If any of the three parties are dissatisfied with Tuesday's result, they can make a final appeal that would be heard by Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Jeff Belskus.

Tuesday's protest, the first time IndyCar race results have been challenged since the 2002 Indianapolis 500, will be conducted with procedures similar to a court of law, allowing for opening and closing statements and cross-examination. It will be heard by New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager Jerry Gappens, former USAC president Rollie Helming and USAC Chairman Jeff Stoops, ensuring there will be no tie.

The panel was chosen by IndyCar president of competition Brian Barnhart, who normally would oversee the hearing but recused himself because he made the call being challenged.

Barnhart conceded Sunday he didn't know if there was precedent for reverting to the order of the lap before the final restart but maintained it was a just call after the finish angered several drivers who said the track was too wet. Penske's Will Power heavily criticized Barnhart and was shown on national TV flashing a double obscene gesture at the scoring tower.

"You ended up jeopardizing drivers, tearing up equipment and doing something you shouldn't have done, and that's restart on an oval in unsafe conditions," Barnhart said. "That wasn't their fault. That was mine."

Servia maintained there was a gap of at least three seconds between the green and the yellow flags for Danica Patrick's spin. During that span, scoring monitors showed he passed Hunter-Reay — whose tires locked on the restart — for first. "We're going to go back in time and say that didn't happen?" Servia asked. "Then how come some cars ended the race with three wheels? Once they call green, it's racing.

"People are saying, 'You don't want to win that way.' Well, I don't want to lose that way. It was an unfortunate way to finish the race, but I won it." The IndyCar rulebook leaves room for interpretation. It states that exercise of judgment, which includes whether to declare a race completed, is not subject to protest or appeal, but that "officials may review a decision that is non-protestable as they deem appropriate."

In 2002, Team Green lost its protest that Paul Tracy was ahead of Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves when a yellow occurred near the race's end.

"The difference," Servia said, "between this and 2002 at Indy is everyone agrees that I was ahead."

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