Surely there must be some misunderstanding, and the board of directors charged with overseeing IndyCar really does have a long-term strategy for the series.
The sacking of CEO Randy Bernard has played out like an episode of Keystone Cops, threatening to push IndyCar into a full-blown crisis.
One problem? IndyCar doesn’t seem to think it has a crisis, even though powerful team owner Roger Penske accused the board of directors of showing poor judgment after Sunday night’s firing of Bernard.
There is no future plan, Penske said. They need to realize this will hurt teams with major sponsors. We need continuity.
Instead, the series has a grossly mishandled situation by the Hulman & Co. and Indianapolis Motor Speedway boards, which let Bernard twist all season amid rumors team owners wanted him fired. The board did nothing to quiet the talk during a paranoid final month, and it reached absurdity last week with a report Bernard had indeed been fired.
But it was denied by both Bernard and the speedway Friday, only for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway board to meet Sunday night and decide in an emergency executive session that Bernard should step down.
Why? No reason has been given.
What did Bernard do wrong? No examples were cited.
What will IndyCar do next? Jeff Belskus, the interim CEO, plans to conduct a search for Bernard’s replacement and said he hasn’t set an established timeline to hire a CEO.
Bernard was no messiah, and he was polarizing in the paddock, so it’s not as if he can’t be replaced.
But he was popular with fans and made improvements to the series in his three years on the job. But his departure has been messy and that has created uncertainty for teams searching for sponsors, who must be wondering whether the series is a viable investment.
It also has enraged fans who are threatening to turn away for good.
IndyCar has done little to calm the storm brewing since the season ended.
Bernard rolled out his 19-race schedule Oct. 1, but it was immediately overshadowed by a report that series founder Tony George was trying to reacquire IndyCar, which is a part of his family’s Hulman & Co. portfolio.
Turns out, George had no intention of regaining control at all. He just didn’t want the board to have any more power over IndyCar. The Associated Press obtained a copy of George’s proposal, which had him listed only as member of the board in the group that would take over the management of IndyCar.
George’s offer, which was for $5 million cash and proof of $25 million in reserves for stabilization of the league, expired Oct. 15. He resigned from the board Oct. 19, citing a conflict of interest in holding a seat while pursuing the series.