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Bernard bounced as IndyCar Series CEO

 IBJ Staff
December 28, 2012
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After a tumultuous 2012 season in which he feuded with team owners over car-part prices and safety issues, bickered with the tire supplier over a contract extension, and was questioned on the direction of the series, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard was fired Oct. 25. He spent less than three years on the job.

IndyCar officials at press conference Then-president Randy Bernard, left, and driver Dan Wheldon were all smiles days before the September 2011 IndyCar season finale that took Wheldon's life. Bernard promoted the Las Vegas race heavily as a jump-start to a banner 2012 season. Instead, the tragedy began a downward spiral that cost Bernard his job. (AP photo)

Bernard had endeared himself to fans, but owners and drivers came to distrust him and his management style, saying he didn’t keep his word, didn’t understand their business, and put marketing over driver safety.

Bernard’s most famous and tragic misstep came at the series finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2011. He offered Dan Wheldon $5 million if he could win the race from the back of the 34-car field. Before the event, IndyCar drivers complained the race wasn’t safe, then Wheldon was killed in a massive 15-car pileup at the start of the 12th lap. The race was later canceled.

In 2012, Bernard failed to improve live attendance and saw television ratings drop more than 20 percent. That was enough for the board of Hulman & Co., which owns the series and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Bernard, former boss of the Pro Bull Riders circuit, was fired two years before his IndyCar contract expired.

IMS CEO Jeff Belskus took over as interim series CEO. But on Nov. 20, Hulman & Co. officials announced one of its board members, Mark Miles, would take the helm as CEO of the parent company and oversee the Speedway, IndyCar Series and other holdings, including Clabber Girl.

Miles, who most recently served as president of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, has a lengthy resume including stints as Association of Tennis Professionals Tour CEO, Eli Lilly and Co. executive director for corporate relations and 1987 Pan Am Games Host Committee CEO. Miles also served as chairman of the 2012 Super Bowl Host Committee.

Miles, who will work out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway corporate headquarters, took his new post Dec. 17, and quickly proclaimed he’d likely restructure the IndyCar Series management team, consider a postseason structure for the open-wheel series, and attempt to add lights at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and make the NASCAR Brickyard 400 a night race.

While IndyCar team owners told IBJ they were unsure if Miles was the answer to their problems, several series sponsors said they are encouraged by Miles’ track record, persona and management style.•

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  1. I am also a "vet" of several Cirque shows and this one left me flat. It didn't have the amount of acrobatic stunts as the others that I have seen. I am still glad that I went to it and look forward to the next one but I put Varekai as my least favorite.

  2. Looking at the two companies - in spite of their relative size to one another -- Ricker's image is (by all accounts) pretty solid and reputable. Their locations are clean, employees are friendly and the products they offer are reasonably priced. By contrast, BP locations are all over the place and their reputation is poor, especially when you consider this is the same "company" whose disastrous oil spill and their response was nothing short of irresponsible should tell you a lot. The fact you also have people who are experienced in franchising saying their system/strategy is flawed is a good indication that another "spill" has occurred and it's the AM-PM/Ricker's customers/company that are having to deal with it.

  3. Daniel Lilly - Glad to hear about your points and miles. Enjoy Wisconsin and Illinois. You don't care one whit about financial discipline, which is why you will blast the "GOP". Classic liberalism.

  4. Isn't the real reason the terrain? The planners under-estimated the undulating terrain, sink holes, karst features, etc. This portion of the route was flawed from the beginning.

  5. You thought no Indy was bad, how's no fans working out for you? THe IRl No direct competition and still no fans. Hey George Family, spend another billion dollars, that will fix it.

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