The Verizon IndyCar Series has informed its competitors of a new rule that could seriously impact the ability for drivers and team principals to speak candidly.
Series boss Mark Miles promised changes would be forthcoming after the Fontana oval race where members of the IndyCar paddock spoke out against the rules that produced 500 harrowing miles of racing, and with further comments criticizing the short IndyCar schedule and other aspects of the series, a new rule has been produced that 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:
a) Threatens or denigrates any Official, fellow Competitor or the INDYCAR brand;
b) Calls into question the integrity or legitimacy of the Rules or their application, construction or interpretation;
c) Denigrates the IndyCar Series racing schedule or Event(s);
d) Threatens or denigrates any INDYCAR business relationship, including those with sponsors or broadcasters;
e) 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, 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.
Based upon the highly definitive list of offending comments produced by IndyCar, members of the media can also expect to work from a narrow scope of questions that would produce answers that comply with Rule 9.3.8.
No guidelines were provided for penalties if any portions of Rule 9.3.8 are violated.
Reached for comment on the new rule, one IndyCar team owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said "No comment."