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Adios Randy Bernard, we hardly knew you…

October 28, 2012

Was Randy Bernard the perfect CEO for INDYCAR, a dysfunctional group if ever there was one?

Likely not, but he took the reins of this flat-lining open wheel series and did his utmost to try and stop it from bleeding money, fans, teams and racetracks. Bernard’s lack of a racing history stymied him from the start; his knowledge of entertainment and business did the opposite – helped him understand the intricacies of a sport in turmoil.

When Randy Bernard joined the Pro Bull Riding (PBR) championship, it was in similar condition. He brought it back from oblivion and that series is in fine shape – in fact it’s in Las Vegas this weekend playing to full houses, something the IZOD IndyCar Series rarely does.

Perhaps Josie George’s idea of the right CEO for this series wasn’t the best – perhaps nobody in the know was willing to take on the task of reviving INDYCAR? It’s definitely a tough job, with bickering owners, stagnant technical rules (even with new cars and engines) and a depleting cast of fans.

The fans seem to be the ones left out of this equation. After all, it was Bernard that attempted to connect with people who pay for the privilege of watching the Indy cars race – he also took the time to speak with the media at every single race during the three years of his tenure. He tried to mend older fences and build new ones.

Twitter is full of anger right now and why not? The interim CEO of INDYCAR is now (again) Jeff Belskus, who serves as CEO of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Belskus, just two days ago denied that Randy was gone. Now he is and Jeff’s in charge – it’s a change of leadership that makes very little sense to anyone who wants a forward-thinking and healthy open wheel series.

“We are very grateful for the tireless effort that Randy has invested into learning, understanding and working to grow the IndyCar Series over the last three racing seasons,” Belskus said. “As both Randy and our organization have reflected on the past season and as we look toward the opportunities ahead and how to best take advantage of them, we agreed that the timing was right to pursue separate paths.”

INDYCAR doesn’t race again until late March; it has 19 races at 16 venues planned, with a possible contest added in Italy – maybe.

This past season was among the most competitive and entertaining the series has seen with a new spec Dallara chassis that developed nicely over the 15 races, intense competition between engine manufacturers Honda and Chevrolet (who won that title), the first American-born champion since 2006 in Ryan Hunter-Reay and renewed interest in  the series from prospective teams like Rolex 24 at Daytona winners Michael Shank Racing.

I guess it wasn’t enough?

The decision to release Bernard came after an emergency meeting on Sunday, October 28 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. board of directors. As he announced the departure of Bernard, Belskus also noted that the former CEO will “provide input into the overall operation of INDYCAR through an ongoing advisory capacity.” In the official release, Bernard said he was looking forward to staying involved:

“I have developed a passion for the sport and I look forward to being involved at a strategic level as an advisor to the INDYCAR leadership,” he said. “As INDYCAR fans, we need to unify behind the sport in order to move it to the next level, and I look forward to providing input and being part of that unified voice along the way.”

Belskus reiterated that “INDYCAR is not for sale and the organization remains completely committed to owning and operating INDYCAR.”

The real question is: does anyone care anymore?

By Anne Proffit

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