Beaux Barfield has become the latest lieutenant enlisted by IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard in his effort to install his own regime and rebuild the open-wheel racing series.
Barfield was introduced Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the replacement for Brian Barnhart, who has been the series' race official dating back to the beginning of the Indy Racing League in 1996.
As race director, Barfield will be the IZOD IndyCar Series’ chief competition official, overseeing on-track race decisions and enforcing rules and procedural issues.
Barfield comes to the IndyCar Series at a critical time. In addition to trying to increase its sponsorship revenue, attendance and television ratings, the series will unveil a new chassis and engine for the first time in nine years this year.
“This is a critical position from a safety, competition and spectator standpoint,” said Zak Brown, president of Zionsville-based motorsports marketing firm Just Marketing International and a former race car driver. “With the new chassis and engine packages coming out, it will be even more critical in terms of governing the technical specifications. It’s not just about dropping the green and checkered flags.”
The October season-ending accident in Las Vegas that killed two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon also puts the series under a microscope.
“I think whoever has this job will be scrutinized closely,” said Mike Hull, managing director of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. “IndyCar people are attention-to-detail people, and it may be more so this year. Whoever has that job will earn his money.”
Barnhart has long been a controversial figure in the series, but became a lightning rod this year when he started a race in the rain that led to an accident and started another race with several safety trucks on the track leading to multiple near misses.
Barfield, 40, comes to IndyCar from the American Le Mans Series. He is a former racer who started in go-karts before advancing to the Formula 2000 and later CART’s Indy Lights Series.
Barfield joined Champ Car’s officiating crew in 2003 and became race director for Le Mans in 2008.
If there’s one knock on IndyCar’s new race director, it’s his relative lack of experience, said Brown, who raced alongside Barfield in the Formula 2000 series.
“They don’t race ovals in ALMS, so he doesn’t have much experience there, and he’s pretty young,” Brown said. “He will have to jump right into ovals with the Indianapolis 500.”
Bernard has been courting Barfield for several weeks and said he's confident he has the right experience.
“Though Beaux’s most recent experience is in sports car racing, his roots are in open-wheel racing,” Bernard said.
“I grew up around racing, so I’ve been involved in it all my life,” Barfield said. “The one thing that I wanted to do as a race driver growing up in America was to be involved with the Indy 500. When my driving career took a change of course and I found myself officiating, it was still a goal of mine to get to Indy car racing and the Indy 500. In that regard, it represents the pinnacle of my aspirations as a race official. I’m truly honored to be a part of IndyCar.”
Chris Mower, Panther Racing team manager, said Barfield’s lack of IndyCar experience is a good thing.
“Consistency and fairness are the key things,” Mower said. “Every team owner and driver have to be treated the same. I think being brought in from the outside will help with that. The hardest part of his job will be standing up to the owners and drivers. That’s never been easy. He’ll need Randy Bernard’s 100-percent backing to stand up to the pressures of this job and make the difficult calls he needs to make.”