The 2012 IndyCar season was by most accounts a roaring success with a new race car, competitive racing even on temporary circuit abominations and more positive press and fan reaction. The relative quality of the product withstood the continuing propensity of those charged with leading the series to self-immolate.
Late in the year the outsider who arrived and finally shook things up got fired, soon followed by many he hired. They used one of the dirty little HR secret methods for getting rid of people they did not like without exposing themselves to troublesome litigation. Simply ‘eliminate their position.’ Then, after the position (and the person occupying it) has been eliminated, create a new, similar position and fill it. Most companies use this technique to purge their organizations of the elderly, fatties, ethnic types, etc. In the case of IMS, Mr. Bernard was shown the door primarily because he ran afoul of the selected whims of multiple team owners. The fact he reported directly to the board and not to Jeff Belskus did not help. Many of his chosen posse had their positions ‘eliminated’ shortly after. Guilty by association despite in most cases effective, solid work.
The person who replaced (figuratively and literally) Bernard is Jeff Belskus, the ‘interim’ CEO. We have not experienced someone less qualified to run open wheel yet so prolific in mind-numbingly meaningless jargon-filled buzzword speech since Joe Heitzler. About the only thing Belskus has done is stop spending any money for anything at any turn. One look at the rapidly deteriorating condition of the IMS physical plant proves the point. The fact that he is supposedly in charge of the IndyCar Series is frightening to an unprecedented degree.
The optimistic viewpoint for 2013 relies on an active role by Mark Miles, a business leader with chops (and sports experience), who is now in charge of Hulman and Companies. If I were him I would A) get heavily involved in IMS and IndyCar from the get-go, and B) eliminate the position of Mr. Belskus. Either that or transfer him to the Finance department. But just to count beans. Not to stack them.
One of the last sacred cows Randy Bernard attempted to convert into juicy, well-marbled steaks for mass consumption was opening the door for Hoosier Tires and its Continental brand to take over as tire supplier for the IndyCar Series. That may have been his position elimination ticket. Owners and drivers, as is their tendency, freaked. There is no logical reason, other than the safety blanket that group seems to feel they have with Firestone. Never mind that Hoosier has been involved with racing and that technology for a long time as well. Never mind the ‘all in’ commitment they were prepared to make as a partner. Never mind that Firestone essentially ran a glorified extortion scheme on IndyCar not long ago that doubled prices owners pay for the product. I find it hypocritical owners can drone on and on about spare parts prices but so willingly bend over for Firestone.
Not surprisingly soon after Bernard was tossed a new, long-term agreement with Firestone was announced. As Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star wrote, ‘terms of the new deal were not announced.’ Wonder why? Task for reporters: Find out what the terms are, and what Firestone’s promotional obligations are. What we also do not know who will supply Indy Lights. The smart thing to do would be to dry run/test Hoosier/Continental in that role. That approach, however, relies on sense.
If history is our guide as to how things will work out for the leadership we can expect another dancing puppet with continuously tangled strings that get so knotted they will eventually be cut. In my mind there are some big tasks including filling the September scheduling gap that will render IndyCar irrelevant at the start of football season, getting television partners to treat IndyCar with a NASCAR-level of commitment instead of an off-colored bastard stepchild, and cultivating renewed relationships with tracks like Fontana and Pocono. There are many others.
Meantime, 2013 has arrived and racing season is not far away.