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Bernard out at IRL

Randy Bernard is out as the head of IndyCar, which qualifies as a news item only in the sense that his date of departure hadn't yet been penciled in.

Now it has: Oct. 28, 2012.

He leaves, likely under pressure, after 2 1/2 tumultuous years in which he did some very good things, but butted heads with a formidable old guard that remains the driving force in the sport.

On the plus side, his introduction of two new engine builders and fast-tracking the new 2012 chassis made for perhaps the most compelling season of racing for the series since Tony George formed the IRL in 1995. On the minus side, a third straight year in which the series failed to turn a profit and a dispute over availability of parts for the new cars ignited a palace coup that was an open secret all season.

But what began his downfall, at least here in the Blobosphere, was the disastrous decision to try to lure a few NASCAR drivers to IndyCar's season finale in Las Vegas by posting a bonus that would be paid any non-series regular who took up the challenge.

In the end, no NASCAR drivers bit, but 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner and series icon Dan Wheldon, who was without a regular ride, did. He started 34th in a 34-car field far too large for the fast, tight Vegas venue, and was killed in the horrific multi-car crash that resulted.

It was a blow from which the sport is still recovering, and whose onus was squarely on Bernard, whose idea was reckless and horrendously ill-considered. In the Blob's humble opinion, the clock started on Bernard right then and there.

And now, it's run out. And despite the Wheldon tragedy, I have to say it's too bad. I think Bernard's ideas for turning around the series were, with the one tragic exception, absolutely on the mark. And I think in time they would have borne considerable fruit.

But you can't get sideways with the old guard and expect to survive in IndyCar. Which is part of its problem.

Ben Smith's blog.