Tuesday, June 17, 1997 | 11:59 a.m.
Embarrassed by controversial finishes in each of its past two races, the IRL took over all race responsibilities from USAC on Monday.
"I expect this transition will go smoothly," USAC president Dick King said. "We will do all we can to make sure the IRL is prepared for its new duties."
The IRL, founded by Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George in 1995, already is responsible for scheduling races and negotiating with promoters. Now, the league also will take over all other functions, including timing and scoring.
"Recent events have led us to conclude that the Indy Racing League needs to move officiating in-house to ensure better communications with our teams," IRL executive director Leo Mehl said.
The move followed the Indianapolis 500 on May 27, when yellow caution lights inadvertently remained flashing after a green flag was displayed on a crucial restart late in the race; and the True Value 500K in Texas on June 7, when a mistake in scoring led to the wrong driver in victory lane and a blindside attack by an irate A.J. Foyt on the real winner, Arie Luyendyk.
USAC accepted blame for the confusion Monday, and said it would not penalize Foyt because the incident "would not have occurred if USAC had not encountered timing and scoring difficulties, which caused each of the two participants to believe that each had won the race."
There is still a possibility the IRL might issue some kind of penalty against the four-time Indy winner and now car owner.
"I can't answer that. I haven't seen the USAC release, but I'm confident it's something Leo is looking at," said Mai Lindstrom, the Speedway's director of public relations.
USAC, which has run the Indy 500 since 1956 and was the only Indy-car sanctioning body until Championship Auto Racing Teams was formed in 1979, will continue sanctioning 10 other race series, including its Silver Crown, sprint and midget divisions.
The next IRL race will be the Samsonite 200 on June 29 at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Fountain, Colo.
George's grandfather, the late Speedway owner Tony Hulman, was one of the founders of USAC. George said he would remain on USAC's board of directors.
Eventual consolidation of all sanctioning functions under IRL control had been planned all along, but "recent events have moved up our schedule," Mehl said.
He said the "decision-making level" will involve different people, although some of the other IRL positions might include current USAC officials.
USAC met with IRL teams last week to explain the confusion at the end of the Texas race, when Foyt drivers Billy Boat and Davey Hamilton were listed as the 1-2 finishers and Indy 500 winner Luyendyk was given third place. But Luyendyk was so convinced he won that he charged into victory lane and began walking away when Foyt came up from behind and twice hit him in the back of the head.
Under the glare of television cameras, the 62-year-old Foyt then wrapped his hands around Luyendyk's head, took two steps and shoved him to the ground.
Less than 24 hours later, race officials determined Luyendyk was the winner and blamed the confusion on malfunctioning computerized scoring that failed to give him credit for all the laps he completed.
Foyt and Luyendyk have since apologized to each other.
Because of the confusion, USAC said, "any disciplinary action for this incident detrimental to racing and the IRL should be rendered by the IRL."