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It Was Nice Knowing You Randy Bernard

28 Oct

By: Colby Martin

2010-present

I’ve tried to stay out of this constant rumor mill and circus that is the INDYCAR Series since the Season Finale in Fontana. Not because I dislike INDYCAR,  but because they can’t keep the bullets out of their feet. Every time something positive happens the series finds a way to screw it up. The 2012 Season was one of the best on-track, but the worst off-track. Constant rumors and stories were flying following the Indianapolis 500 in May that a group of owners were trying to oust the Series CEO. The owners at the time, weren’t very good at completing this task, but set in motion the events that led up to today.

As of press time, INDYCAR Series CEO Randy Bernard announced he is stepping down and the IMS Board seemed to have wanted him gone as well. This comes with little surprise to me since all weekend there has been stories flying around that the CEO was out, and no person in their right mind would sit around and take this sort of circus. They announced the INDYCAR Series would replace Bernard after a short search. This is the first time since 1994 that the Series was going in the right direction. 1995-96 were plagued by the announcement of the IRL by Tony George. The same man that created the biggest single split in any professional league is the same man who appears to be responsible for Randy being out. Since 1996 the Series has been split, destroyed, and at times on the verge of bankruptcy…that is, until Randy was put in charge 3 years ago. The early favorites to replace Bernard are Tony George and Zak Brown (whom Tony George has said was interested, even though Brown said he was not).

Let’s look back at Randy’s time as CEO for the series:

Randy Bernard

Randy Bernard (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • In Randy’s first season he was put in charge of a dying series, one with a TV Contract with a channel that only a small market of people could see. Not that the channel was a bad channel by any means, to be honest it offers the best coverage of any of INDYCAR’s TV contracts. Randy has made the best of this contract and has made NBC Sports a solid partner, and took advantage of what he was given. The Series shined on Versus/NBC Sports, and would have been available on NBC had ABC not blocked it.
  • Randy was given an old junker of a chassis for the Series, and in the short time he was there he was able to put together the INDYCAR Series ICONIC committee and brought the Series a new Chassis. That chassis, later to be named the DW12 by Dallara, has produced one of the most exciting Indy 500’s in recent years as well as interesting and entertaining races all season long.
  • The last American INDYCAR Series Champion came in 2006, but in 2012 Ryan Hunter Reay came home with the title. The season, while only competitive between really 3 teams, was never a given at any point. The Series Championship was right down to the wire, and didn’t need fabricated drama.
  • At the end of the 2011 Season Randy Bernard was faced a tragic incident, that not even the best could have seen coming. Sure, the track was busy with 34 cars and speeds and down-force were high. The tragic accident on lap 13 was just that, tragic, and accidental. Dan Wheldon could have easily walked away from the wreck, but the most unfortunate series of events occurred leading to Wheldon’s death. None of this was anyone’s fault as it’s part of the sport, however Randy Bernard took a lot of heat and blame for it. Even the Hulman-George family and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Board (which oversees the Series) never stood up for Randy.
  • Although Randy was able to move on as CEO, he never truly forgave himself for the incident. Things might have been different, but he was unable to do so without the proper support. However, in terms of his quality as CEO he was able pull most of the paddock and drivers around him. He replaced the plague that was Brian Barnhart, he brought in new chassis, and had China not bailed on the series it would have been the first year that the INDYCAR Series broke even.
  • While Bernard not only brought the INDYCAR Series behind him, he seemed to be a fan favorite. From my personal experience with Randy, he was always open to the fans. You could email, mail, or even call his office and he always tried to return your messages or call. He was constantly meeting with new sponsors and tracks to increase the league awareness, and he loved creating new partnerships. Not only did he bring new tracks, and some old ones back, he brought Series sponsor IZOD on board. IZOD is the biggest partner that the INDYCAR Series has had since it had DirectTv (which rumors have it, even they didn’t keep their end of the deal).
  • Randy was a fans CEO, and was as big of a fan as anyone I’ve ever seen. In the time with the Series, I saw Randy in the Turn 2 section of Indy (where I sit) each year. He sat in my row, spoke to every person around him, and even stopped to take pictures or sign autographs. Then this past season he came and sat 5 rows below me, where he remained for almost 10 laps before moving on somewhere else. Each year he was friendly and talked to everyone who stopped him or tried to speak to him. At an Indy 500 Practice Session last year I saw him walking near Gasoline Alley, where I stopped and asked him about the new car. He said he loved it as he walked on talking with other members of the series. I wasn’t a reporter or anything, just simply asked him in passing. That’s the kind of guy Randy Bernard is, and it’s a sad day to see him leave the series.

I don’t know what the INDYCAR Series will do with Randy Bernard, sure it will survive awhile, but if Tony George is placed back in-charge of the series, I can see it’s demise ahead. With little outside of the Indianapolis 500 to hold the average fan’s interest, lack of an iconic driver, and little mainstream attention the series is dead. With Ryan Hunter Reay being the current Champion there was a lot of potential for the Series to move forward, however no one was able to take advantage of that publicity. Between Danica exiting INDYCAR at the end of last season, Dan Wheldon’s death, and the constant lack of support for Randy Bernard, there is no one who would

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George

Former IndyCar Series CEO and IRL Founder Tony George (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

want the responsibility of this circus. Whoever it is, it’s going to have to be a man of steel, because the Hulman-George Family is the biggest joke in auto-racing. The Series has no positive momentum now, and I hope that IZOD and other companies realize that before it’s too late. I hope the Hulman-George family sales the INDYCAR Series to someone else, just hope that it isn’t Tony George, because if it is you’ll see all ovals again and packracing (that most blame for Wheldon’s death).

Colby Martin is an amateur sports blogger who enjoys INDYCAR, F1, NFL, NBA, and the MLB. His views and opinions do not represent anyone or anything other than himself. 

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