IndyCar stewards have set a confusing precedent with their decision to penalise Graham Rahal for blocking Scott Dixon in Long Beach, says Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing president Piers Phillips.
Rahal beat Dixon to third on the road in Sunday's race but was demoted to fourth post-race because IndyCar race control - run by Kyle Novak, Max Papis and Arie Luyendyk - considered Rahal had made a reactionary rather than anticipatory block on Dixon on the back straight on the last lap.
RLLR driver Rahal was struggling with his front tyres and had used the last of his push-to-pass turbo boost at the time.
"It was defence but he's entitled to do that. I disagree with the stewards," Phillips told Autosport.
"If you look at the onboard, Graham comes out and hits the outside kerb, and instantly moves right to defend. In my opinion, it was not in reaction to Dixon's move.
"I think they've set a precedent now. There's going to be a lot of people looking at every defensive move and they'll have to be consistent.
"It's disappointing. And what I'm afraid of is that it will intimidate drivers into not racing each other.
"This isn't supposed to be 'after you, Claude'. This is racing, and a good defence is as important a tool for a driver to have in his skillset as a good attack.
"I thought Graham played it absolutely right. He moved in anticipation of Dixon making a move. He couldn't have moved to the right any sooner after exiting Turn 8.
"It just so happened that Scott was choosing to go the same way.
"Graham knew he'd lost a bit of momentum, he knew the threat, so the very least he was going to do was make Scott go the long way around.
"I don't understand why [the stewards] called it the way they did."
Rahal insisted he was "not upset" about the decision but also felt his driving was within the rules.
"I moved right as quickly as I could out of the corner and then I gave him a lane," he said.
"By the rules, you're allowed to make your move, which I did on the exit of the corner. That was it.
"Did I block? Yes, I blocked; you're allowed to block in this series. You're allowed to make a move; I made a move. That's allowed."
Team boss Bobby Rahal said he "would agree totally" with his son's demotion to fourth if he had been weaving or "squeezing him towards the fence" but "it wasn't that way, and now it puts everyone in a tenuous place".
He said drivers and teams now "need a definition" of what the series considered an unacceptable blocking move.
But Dixon felt Rahal's driving was a clear-cut case.
"You're not meant to react. That's exactly what he did," said the reigning champion.
"It forced me not to hit him, I had to brake, get off the throttle. "It is what it is. We're going to be OK with it. They're not going to be happy with it.
"I think Graham has definitely been racing on the edge. Definitely at Barber, there was some pretty risky kind of situations too.
"I'm good friends with Graham. There are no hard feelings there. But you still have to give everybody some space."