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Las Vegas calamity saps IndyCar momentum

IBJ Staff
December 24, 2011
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                              on Lilly Las Vegas crash saps IndyCar
                              momentum


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IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard racked up a number of accomplishments early in 2011 but was buffeted by challenges late in the year—most notably a crash at a Las Vegas race in October that left one driver dead and the future of the series mired in uncertainty.

Bernard, hired in March 2010 to replace Tony George, helped usher in specifications for a new engine and chassis package that is to debut in 2012 and helped broker deals with Chevrolet and Lotus to join Honda as series engine suppliers.

Bernard also helped broker a deal to retain Italy-based Dallara as the series’ sole chassis maker and helped retain Firestone as the series’ tire maker just as Firestone was threatening to leave.

But tests for the 2012 car showed it was slow and had handling problems. Mostly flat television ratings and small live race crowds made increasing sponsorship a challenge for the series and its teams.

Those problems caused Bernard in November to fire Terry Angstadt, who was in charge of the series’ commercial endeavors.

Bernard also demoted Brian Barnhart, chief of race control, after teams complained about inconsistencies in applying on-track penalties.

Bernard, who was hired away as head of the Professional Bull Riders circuit, is an aggressive promoter, and he was at his best leading up to the season finale in Las Vegas Oct. 16.

Festivities included a parade of IndyCars on the Las Vegas strip and a gambling outing with Hollywood stars, athletes from other sports, and IndyCar drivers.

But the race—which included a near-record 34 cars—went horribly wrong. A 15-car crash on lap 12 seriously injured several drivers and killed defending Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon.

Wheldon was there as part of a promotion offering him and a fan $2.5 million each if Wheldon could come from the back of the pack to win the Las Vegas race.

After a long delay, Bernard canceled the race and launched an investigation. The probe concluded Wheldon died when his head slammed into a post holding up a catch fence above the retaining wall ringing the outer edge of the 1.5-mile track.

In December, IndyCar officials decided not to return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2012 as planned, and the series’ future at the track depends in part on what it learns from further testing there.

Announcement of the 2012 schedule was delayed and questions arose about the design and safety of the series’ new car. Some racing insiders recommended that the IndyCar Series largely abandon racing on oval tracks, especially the steeply banked shorter ovals like those in Texas and Las Vegas.•

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  • The IRl Delusion
    Using 85 year old technology and calling it new
  • 1975 Datsun 280Z
    Had feul injektion directly into the cylinders...so your saying the now 37 year old technology is finally making it into the Indycarz? Whoop-de-frickin doo. Go GM....maybe next you can whip up the single barrel Carter carb used on mid-1970's GM six cylinder engines.

    IBJ is reporting the news you need to know. Psych ED is calling, you forgot your Ativan.



  • Blind?
    Cheif, perhaps you should stop reading other peoples opinions, and think for yourself. Example: Every engine manufacturer Participating in the Indycar series is developing their own relevant technology. For instance, Chevy will be using "direct injection" in its engine. That is a system where the injectors are placed directly in the cylinders. The result is more horsepower, more fuel efficiency, and fewer emmisions. If you think thats irrelevant crap, then you and i are living on different planets. Perhaps the IBJ should be writing about this instead of fabricating unfounded opinions. I'm done. Its not my job to educate Cheif.
  • Hey DarrEn
    - the new car is a pile of crap...read the reports.

    - TV ratings are inconsequential because they are locked into 9 more years on the versus...err, NBC Sports Network.

    -In August, they are racing in China.

    - they've been killed off of American ovals.

    DuDe, they are in survival mode, near death. how blind can you be?

    • I see the IRL Delusion
      still has momentum
    • sorry
      Sorry Jack, that response was for Cheif. To answer your question, attendence is actually up substancially. So is television ratings. Moreover, inspite of the fact we all loved Dan, and are sick he is not with us anymore. All signs are pointing up. Momentum has not been any better in the last 15 years. If you don't feel it, or see it, then you should'nt be writing about this sport. PORIOD!!!
    • Tick Tock
      Jack, You just made my pointe for me. "In a disfunctional way". So enjoy your tin-top, slow motion racing with your trailer park buds. Does anyone even make a car with a carberator anymore? So who really has the "crapwagon", Hmmmmmm? Indycar was doing your speed in the 1960's. BTW, we were also around 50 years before your founders made their first batch of moonshine, and we will be here years after the hillbillie hype machine has folded. Tick tock says the clock.
    • Um..l
      Darren, what did he write that's not true?
      • greatest article ever!
        Bwahahhaha! Darren, you're blaming the columnists?

        I know its XMas, but gift wrapping that momentum you'd still end up with a pile of crapwagon.

        2012 IRL/Indycar DEATHBLOW 2012 is under way!!!

        • sapping momentum
          The only thing thats sapping momentum from this series, is columnists that appear to have an agenda. How much did NASCAR pay you to write this garbage?

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