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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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