There is no denying his legacy in a variety of disciplines, and he has been successful following his climb out of the cockpit. There are, however, two things that genuinely bother me about the guy. First, unlike his son Michael, he never pursued continued direct involvement in Indy Car, either as an owner or otherwise (although he is being paid to drive around in the Sinden two-seater). That separates him from other greats such as Foyt, Al Unser(s) and Rutherford. Even Rick Mears is still synonymous with Team Penske. Mario’s penchant for whining is not in any way diminished even though his direct lack of involvement in the operation of the sport has been minimal.
He may have chosen not to based simply on politics at the time of his driving retirement. That leads to the second fingernails on a chalkboard aspect of Mario. Whenever he opens his mouth about anything even remotely related to Indy Car he takes the same approach the average ignorant, hateful cart enthusiast does. This time the forum was an interview in Sports Illustrated by Brant James. Granted, most writers who get to interview legends either lob softballs or ask leading questions, and this interview contains some of that.
Mario: “I think the IndyCar series, as we know it, is definitely on the upswing, because it was brought to its knees and I don’t need to mention by whom. I think now that it’s unified, it has definitely taken off into the direction it needs to go and that it deserves. Izod is doing a tremendous job of promoting into mainstream America, and that’s where we belong. It’s not something new. It’s something that needs to be brought to the attention of the fans properly and without having two series competing to do the same thing.”
Oh, go ahead, Mario. Say it. ‘Tony George.’ All other equally ignorant knuckle dragging mouth breathers do. Just forget the collective arrogance of the cart contingent that made one stupid mistake after another before self immolating themselves. Twice. Oh, the sport is ‘unified?’ Who is the person responsible for that? I guess you don’t need to ‘mention by whom.’ I also move that the word ‘unified’ be eliminated from Indy Car. That word artificially elevates hooligans who willfully attempted to destroy the sport to a level they do not deserve. The asset sale proceeds Tony George picked up after champcar failed was nothing like the cart that existed in 1995. We all know that IZOD is doing a great job (and paying you a lot of money to boot), but there have not been two series for years. It is 2011. We reside in the 21st century. Join us.
Mario: “I think it’ll take time for fans to really follow some of the drivers. There have been some odd names because the series is very international. But I really think the series is picking up. It’s beginning to resonate. I think the fans will begin to look forward. Now, it’s a matter of time to rebuild something that was lost.”
Mario, what was lost was cart. Then champcar. Indy continued making stars during the ill-fated boycott of the arrogant. Do not confuse that loss with any perceived diminishment of Indy Car just because your boys failed to show. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the great race. It has not lost anything except in the deluded minds of people who either do not or refuse to get it.
Mario: Randy Bernard, to me, is doing a phenomenal job on so many fronts. He has learned tremendously over this past year. He is a very calculated individual. He’s patient in some ways but also very energetic in some others. He’s careful with his moves. The conversation I had with him in the beginning, I told him the worst thing he could do was try to reinvent the wheel. I think that resonated. I said ‘this is not a startup series. You’ve just got to remember to look back and learn from the formula that worked.’ That’s what we need to reinstate. We abandoned the product. I think he truly gets it. We’re fortunate he’s at the helm of this thing right now.”
Hang on a second, Mario. You encourage Randy Bernard not to reinvent the wheel, but you propose the solution to all real or perceived problems is to reinstate the cart model? That makes no sense. When anyone feels turning back the clock to solve anything is the way to go, I immediately get suspicious. No one abandoned the Indy Car product except cart idiots and fans who got turned off by the scorched earth cart created. Learn from the mistakes of the past for sure, but do not make them again. cart had its day. That evolutionary period ended. Move forward. I applaud Randy Bernard for compiling opinions from every constituency. A much smarter approach is to build the sport to heights never experienced before in any evolutionary period. We will never get there by trying to recreate 1995. The world is a much different place in the present day and the sport can be greater than it ever was before. It will not get there as long as former stars keep making snarky comments every time a mic is placed in front of them.