Randy Bernard Is Out – Has IndyCar Shot Itself In The Foot…Again?

Big Bend, WI (October 28th, 2012) – They’re some faces smiling in the greater-Indianapolis area tonight, perhaps even some high-fives. What has been rumored, leaked, denied and now disclosed in a press release has happened. Randy Bernard is out as CEO of INDYCAR. Those who have been leaking rumors, sneaking behind closed doors have gotten their wish.

The press release stated, The board of directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation convened a special meeting Sunday, Oct. 28 and has announced that Randy Bernard will relinquish his position as CEO of INDYCAR effective immediately. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation President and CEO Jeff Belskus was appointed as interim CEO of INDYCAR.

“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.”

Randy’s three-year tenure hasn’t been easy, it has been marked by successes such as new chassis, new manufacturer, new venues and a fantastic 2012 racing season. And marked by miscues such as the Vegas finale last year, the cancelled China race and Lotus failed attempt as mfg. One point of displeasure with many car owners was the cost of spare parts from Dallara.

Talk to some in motorsports, especially those outside of IndyCar, many praised the job Bernard had done. Considering he was a self-admitted motorsports neophyte who had never even seen a race when Hulman & Co. board member Josie George recruited him, he immediately embraced the sport. Bernard spoke to the media one on one, greeted and spoke to the fans and even ventured to see a race or two at a dirt track. Bernard was a sponge soaking in everything he could in the sport. He also reviled the term “That’s the way we always did it.” Changes were made, spending was reduced and sponsors were recruited. However, problems still exist, television ratings continue to fall, overall media exposure and driver recognition remained stagnant.

The big question is what now? Jeff Belskus takes over as interim CEO. But who in their right mind would want to take the job? Bernard had reportedly many job offers due the performance his duties at PBR (Pro Bull Riders) and in IndyCar. One may think, if other companies want to steal this guy, he may be pretty good. Can you think of another leader in open wheel who had a greater fan following than Bernard? Andrew Craig? Steve Johnson? Joe Heitzler? I don’t think so. Did Bernard make mistakes? Sure he did, however the bottom line is, you better have a good option and/or replacement. That doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment. Fans like to chant ‘fire the coach,’ but won’t know who’d they replace him with.

The Boston Consulting Group will has been retained to provide a list of candidates for the Hulman Group. The main issue is why would a highly qualified candidate take the job? The constant squabbling and second-guessing from the car owners and 15-years of dwindling fan support are two big reasons anyone would turn their back, especially the way Bernard’s exit was handled. Additionally, one wonders what effect this latest turmoil will have on prospective sponsors not only for the series but for the teams?

The IndyCar Series, whether it is USAC, CART, Champ Car, or the IRL, seems to make itself more irrelevant each year. Should we be surprised? Sadly, I’m not…unfortunately I’m just a bit more calloused and apathetic.

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