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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. Really, taking someone managing the regulation of Alcohol and making himthe President of an IVY Tech regional campus. Does he have an education background?

  2. Jan, great rant. Now how about you review the report and offer rebuttal of the memo. This might be more conducive to civil discourse than a wild rant with no supporting facts. Perhaps some links to support your assertions would be helpful

  3. I've lived in Indianapolis my whole and been to the track 3 times. Once for a Brickyard, once last year on a practice day for Indy 500, and once when I was a high school student to pick up trash for community service. In the past 11 years, I would say while the IMS is a great venue, there are some upgrades that would show that it's changing with the times, just like the city is. First, take out the bleachers and put in individual seats. Kentucky Motor Speedway has individual seats and they look cool. Fix up the restrooms. Add wi-fi. Like others have suggested, look at bringing in concerts leading up to events. Don't just stick with the country music genre. Pop music would work well too I believe. This will attract more young celebrities to the Indy 500 like the kind that go to the Kentucky Derby. Work with Indy Go to increase the frequency of the bus route to the track during high end events. That way people have other options than worrying about where to park and paying for parking. Then after all of this, look at getting night lights. I think the aforementioned strategies are more necessary than night racing at this point in time.

  4. Talking about congestion ANYWHERE in Indianapolis is absolutely laughable. Sure you may have to wait in 5 minutes of traffic to travel down BR avenue during *peak* times. But that is absolutely nothing compared to actual big cities. Indy is way too suburban to have actual congestion problems. So please, never bring up "congestion" as an excuse to avoid development in Indianapolis. If anything, we could use a little more.

  5. Oh wait. Never mind.

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