Marshall Pruett wrote an excellently crafted article on Speed TV’s site (and it’s just part I) that neutrally reviewed all of the critical events over the past few years that led to the embarrassing, ham-fisted firing of Randy Bernard as CEO of IndyCar this week. All racing enthusiasts are highly encouraged to read it to draw your own conclusions, as I have.
Here are the problems for me, given the beautifully expressed scenarios laid out by Pruett:
- It is difficult to tell which group is more dysfunctional and self-interested at the expense of anything else, especially the cultivation of fans — the corporate inbred Hulman-George ‘braintrust’ or current IndyCar owners and many of their whiny drivers.
- The owners (and by extension many of the drivers) went over Bernard’s head to whine to Belskus. That should have never been allowed to happen regardless of the circumstance. That behavior is the exact same behavior that ran cart into the ground, twice, along with a litany of failed CEOs along the way. What the series has always needed is a Big Bill France-like dictator who maintains, with force if necessary, a ‘my way or the highway’ attitude. cart would never have allowed such a leader. Too many egos, and they talk out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand they raise holy hell about cost overruns for parts, but when Firestone doubles the price for tires they do not bat an eye. When Randy Bernard strikes a much more favorable deal financially and from a marketing standpoint with another manufacturer, they form a lynch mob.
- An even bigger hurdle is the conservative, out of touch nature of IMS/Hulman & Company. No one in the organization has ANY testicles. Especially Jeff Belskus, who is so afraid of alienating anyone that he remains silent most of the time on any issue and when he does speak rivals Joe Heitzler for use of buzzwords, only without the personality. That lack of committed direction is what leads to the awkwardness of things like firing the CEO.
Who in their right mind would ever take such a job given current owners and ‘the family?’ Kudos to Josie who went way out of the box to grab a marketing expert who built a lucrative sport with millions of fans from essentially rodeo scraps to try and do the same thing for IndyCar. Too bad neither of the groups of inmates running the asylum recognize that need with any degree of intelligence or foresight. That is exactly why ratings stink and aluminum shines.
But read Pruett’s article and decide for yourself. The nonsense that is occurring today parallels the early 90s, and both sides still appear to be too stupid to solve the problems.