Bull-riding boss curious choice to lead IRL

January 28, 2010
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Randy Bernard is certainly an interesting choice to replace Tony George as CEO of the Indy Racing League.

It makes me wonder how many other candidates turned down the opening. It also makes me wonder who Jeff Belskus, the shepherd in charge of herding this open-wheel operation, is listening to.

I know Just Marketing International CEO Zak Brown turned down an invite do discuss the opening. And who can blame him. His Indianapolis-based marketing firm is flying high with NASCAR and Formula One sponsorship deals, making JMI one of the fastest growing firms on wheels.

Mark Miles, the former CEO of the ATP Tour, also took a pass. He’s now busy heading the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership and helping lead Indianapolis’ 2012 Super Bowl host committee.

When I reached Brown earlier this week, he was hoping someone from inside racing circles could be tabbed. Some within racing thought Tony Cotman would be the best choice.

But Cotman, 42, decided to start his own race track design and operations firm earlier this year. He still consults for the IRL (he’s in Brazil doing so now), but the formation of his own company certainly removed his hat from the ring.

Brown’s top two choices this week were Scott Atherton, American Le Mans Series CEO and Eddie Gossage, known for his work at Texas Motor Speedway. One thing Brown was adamant about; the need for a racing insider.

Atherton, Brown said, is ideal not only due to his motorsports knowledge, but also because he understands the inner workings of a family-run operation, as is the case with the ALS.

Gossage, said Brown, has undeniable marketing and leadership skills. And, he added, the fact that motorsports sponsors are familiar with Gossage and his work, “is a big plus.”
“I’m sure Randy is a strong marketer, but he’ll have a big learning curve,” Brown said. “He’ll need to get up to speed on the inner-workings of the sport, and motorsports sponsors will have to become familiar with him.”

Maybe a fresh set of eyes is just what the Indy Racing League needs. It didn’t work out so well with Gene Simmons and Creative Artists Agency, but who knows?

Sponsors—still trying to figure out the relatively unknown Belskus—have said they won’t likely put any new money into the sport until they are confident in the new CEO’s direction.

That’s likely to take a bit longer with a question mark like Bernard. And if it’s two things the IRL are short on, it’s time and money. Few still believe the IRL has until 2013 to sniff a profit. If George’s dismissal by the board didn’t prove that, I’m not sure what will.

Whoever the new series boss is, he seems to have a host of serious challenges before him. Not the least of which is putting enough cars on the track to make it interesting. With the closure of Tony George's Vision Racing today, and with several other teams on the ropes, there's serious concern about fielding 33 at Indianapolis this May, and 20 cars at other races.

Bernard hasn’t exactly taken bull riding to the main stream, but he has undeniably grown the sport from almost nothing to something. And, since PBR is a regular on the Versus cable TV channel, he at least has familiarity with the open-wheel series’ broadcast partner.

Hmm, I wonder if that’s who’s getting into Belskus’ ear.

To read more about Bernard and the IRL's offer, click here.

  • Disappointment personified
    Why someone not even remotely associated with open wheel racing? What does Bull Riding have to do the Indy 500? Other than sharing the same un-viewable Versus network, geez, why not just get Joe Heitzler? At least he has AOW experience.

    I think this is a step in the wrong direction for American Open Wheel racing. It used to be a sophisticated sport....not any more.

    Anthony...great article. You ask a great question...why wouldn't TONY COTMAN take the job? Something stinks about this whole deal...I think the IRL is tainted and no one wants to touch that "stink". Just saying...
  • Agast
    Larry Curry is the only one qualified to take over this job.
  • Cotman?
    If Cotman's designing tracks and he was considered by some to be the best choice....and the new Delta Wing debuts on Feb 10, 2010....and they're hiring a bull riding dude, Tony George is letting Vision go blind..... It don't add up.

    Is Cotman designing tracks for another series too? His IRL contract can't be exclusive. Something is afoot here...a change in the wind, me thinks.
  • Bull_____
    Pun intended ... This is bull%@&#!

  • Makes you wonder...
    I have to wonder about the comment in the other article (not this blog post) about how this guy helped broker a deal for PBR to merge with a private equity firm. I have the feeling he's being brought in to prep the league to be sold off from the Hulman-George family. That's the only real logic in it to me.
  • Thumbs Up Fishers Gal
    There you go gal....now you're catching on.
  • Penske
    If they wish the track run strictly as a business, sell it to Penske.
  • Signs Signs Everywhere There's Signs
    TG pulls plug on Vision, leaving millions of Indy Car fans without Ed Carpenter to root for! They'll have to switch allegiances to Hedeki Mutoh. Ratings should go up righ there. Then factor in Sarah Fisher winning races like she does all the time, with iconic racing figure Jay Howard in a FisherMobile, well, I have got to think this Bull Slinger Professional whatever it is, rodeo thingy guy who got these cowboys on TV or whatever it is, can do pretty well for hisself being the CEO. It's a no brainer. The IRL is a big deal in this country and he can make it even sorta bigger-ish.
  • Not sure what Belskus is up to. Hope it works out for the league and OW. Of course what is auto racing, but a huge marketing project. Hopefully this guy is a good showman who can improve on the brand.

    Fishers Gal,

    The problem is, IMS needs the IRL and vice versa. It would be like separating ORP fron NHRA or Daytona from NASCAR. Without the series, you do not have a race.

  • one-off race
    Why couldn't the Indy 500 be a one-off race? No one pays any attention to the other races anyway, and by all accounts they're money losers. They certainly were for the Hulman-George family empire.
  • one-off race
    Why couldn't the Indy 500 be a one-off race? No one pays any attention to the other races anyway, and by all accounts they're money losers. They certainly were for the Hulman-George family empire.
  • because there is not enough money in just the 500 to make it worthwhile for teams to keep drivers and cars running. it would be no different than trying to keep stock cars running for just the Daytona 500.

  • But but but
    Huh? Not enough money in it? Geez, you even think the IRL will get 16 cars this year before the Versus opt-out cuts in? Before the Izod opt-out cuts in? And 33 in castrated month of May?

    If there aint enough money....why bother? Isnt that why they wanted to have total control??? So they (ims) can control the series that dont make $$$$? Brilliant!
  • see again you make my point about haters. hard to tell if your comment was made out of ignorance or hatred.

    the split was not out of money, and it was not about total control. It was a knowledge that cart was on a downward spiral and a change was needed to keep OW from going the same way as cart.
  • winner
  • Don't Be So Quick
    Don't be so quick to dismiss Randy Bernard. Take a good look at his track record at the PBR and you will see a talented and creative executive that has the PBR not only on Versus but NBC on Thanksgiving day. They run competitions on three levels simultaneously around the country, South America and Australia. Certainly, motorsports experience would be a plus... but the IRL needs fresh ideas more than it needs more of the same. Bernard's record at the PBR is strong... IRL will be fortunate if he is willing to take the challenge on.
  • Just Another Consumer Product
    I agree with Hartley on don't be so quick to dismiss Bernard. The IRL is essentially a consumer product with a very weak brand. Maybe it takes someone with new perspective and new energy because doing things the "same old way" hasn't been working for many years. Sponsors are looking for someone who understands business and can grow the brand. That doesn't necessarily require an encyclopedic knowledge of motorsports. It means knowing what consumers want and knowing how to deliver it to them.
  • iman's issues
    the more things change the more iman holds to his fantasies
  • The more things change, the more truth, chief and their merry band of haters will continue to obsessively attack, TG, IMS and the IRL.

    i am more than willing to give Bernard a chance. i am willing to give belskus a chance. maybe they are the kickstart to get things moving. small incremental changes have not worked, so maybe it will be a big change that will make the difference.
    • My Next Prediction
      I will buy everyone a sundae in a few years at the Culver's where Turn 4 used to be.
    • Premonition
      Indyman sez: "the split was not out of money, and it was not about total control. It was a knowledge that cart was on a downward spiral and a change was needed to keep OW from going the same way as cart."

      What a crock of blubber that is....we often forget the ability of IMS to forecast the future. That's quite a crystal ball they use over at IMS. Revisionist paranoia....
    • More of the same from you guys.

      At least there are others on here with intelligent things to discuss.
    • It's TOneys Fault
      Just as in the USAC days, IMS proves to be incapable of successfully running open wheel racing. Thanks to indyman's and TOneys' hard work, the haters' visions of IMS being bulldozed under are taking major strides to becoming reality. Thanks guys.
    • Right
      "The more things change, the more truth, chief and their merry band of haters will continue to obsessively attack, TG, IMS and the IRL."

      Should tell you something about how the true fans of the sport hate that a split happened and it took 15 years for "the american oval series" to become CART 2.
    • WWRD*
      What Would Roger (Penske) Do?
    • Or how long a few can carry a grudge. I mean since cart went bankrupt twice, it would seem to show that their product was not well received.
    • Grudge?
      Steve is right. I am confident the IRL doesn't want my business because they don't listen to what AOW fans (who were distanced by the split) want.

      I don't want the IRL, no one did. Now, you all are stuck with it. I'm just one of MILLIONS of fans who used to spend thousands of dollars to see AOW racing BEFORE the IRL. It's CONSUMER CHOICE. I hate the product ...you YOU KNOW WHY. Maybe I'll start spending my money at the PBR bullriding shows.
    • iman's issues
      iman and TOney, 600 million dollars and still losers. talk about not being well received. you guys couldn't bribe and buy enough people to keep your unwanted product going.
    • Chief,

      After hundreds of posts refusing to admit to being a hater, you finally do. Good job, the first step is to be honest and tell the truth. Now answer the question of why you posted hundreds of posts about a subject you now admit you hate? Seems like you have a problem.

      So answer this, at what time did you go from being a cart fanatic to hating what OW has become? Was it when the stars started to migrate to the IRL? or was it after the first bankruptcy? When they cancelled their Texas Race because of not enough testing?

      I mean at some point they had to go from your favorite thing in the whole wide world to hating OW?
    • Hey DUDES, you've got a new CEO
      It's official...Randy Bernard just resigned from PBR. News Conference at Speedway at 1PM.

    • IRl stinks
      Tony George killed AOW.

      The IRL is garbage compared to what came before it. Lowest ratings since 1986 for Indy 500, attendance WAY down, 60% loss in TV viewership, on Versus ww/ 0.14 ratings and not available on Direct TV. I want the sport to succeed but it won't unless the IRL brand is long forgotten. Keep ignoring the facts Indyman. CART is dead...the IRL is dying. Ignoring the messages only prolongs the agony. Where do you think $600 million went???
    • iman's issues
      iman and TOney had indy and no competition and failed..how's that for stupidity
    • Chief,

      You are still dodging, at what point did you begin to hate OW racing. I mean at the point of the split, you still loved cart/owrs/ccws, because that is what you keep preaching as the greatest racing series. So when did OW jump the shark as it were? Late 90's? early 00's? There had to be a moment when you said I no longer like OW. I am just curious when that was so I can get an idea of what you loved about OW.

      Here is to hoping that Bernard can work some magic without killing what is/was good about the IRL.
    • opinion
      The IRL mIndyman. It's the answer to everything....the inception of the IRL was the "jump the shark" moment for the sport. Look it up. As Justin Wilson used to say, "I guarantee".

      Journalists, owners, sponsors, fans are in almost 100% agreement on Tony George's culpability with regards to the failure of the IRL and what it's done to AOW racing. Just look what it's done to Indy...

    • Still missing or dodging the point. Unless you just hate TG or the IRL, I doubt you started hating OW racing when the split happened. I mean cart was relatively unchanged the first couple of years with the exception of running Indy (which they could have if cart had not tried to kill it with the ill fated US 500).

      So you should have been ok with cart at that point. So when did cart get to the point you hated OW? Or would you good with what it was in the end?

      Is your link for the almost 100% failure of the IRL like the links we have (or don't) for the Fred Nation $600 Million quote etc...? Or in other words, non existitent?

      If you believe the original vision of the IRL was bad, then you must have favored foriegn drivers, Road and Street Courses and foriegn tracks.
    • Agast
      TOneys' new hat says, I Wuz Indy(as long as I was spending my sisters' money, anyways)
    • Lipstick on a Pig
      Quick research revealed Mr. Bernard's PBR is essentially a guy that took a sport and modernized it, taking it to the masses.

      After 15 years and $600 million dollars, what on earth will this man be able to do for often re-lipsticked pig that is the IRL? What angle is left to promote?

      What ever it is I have strong feelings that it's not going to be kind to the IRL bootlickers of past 15 years. And that's a good thing.
    • So are you telling us you do not know when you started hating OW or just dodging the question?
    • The day the IRL was created
      IRL is the reason AOW is in the poor condition it is in. Some don't want the public to know that. Keep sweeping the facts away...$600 million! 0.14 Tv ratings, failed VISION, Tony George OUSTED, foreigners, strret courses, brazillian ethanol, 10 year old cars...15 year of FAIL.
    • Marlboro Gone
      Word is out the Marlboro is OUT as Penske sponsor.

      That Versus contract is paying out in SPADES! Long dead CART series had nothing to with it...all on IRL / Tony George / IMS.
    • good hate
      I think we should turn the IRL into HATEBALL 2010. We could just get stupid drunk and throw chickenbuckets at each other.

      It wood mebbe make more since.

      Gall durned gomers gettin whateys rooted fer.

    • Cowboy Killers
      is gone? no way? man, that means Penske is 86 off the menu. no ciggies $$ no racin fo sho.
    • Again the haters go off on an odd tangent, ignoring the facts. Marlboro is reducing its role because they have not been able to advertise for years other than by car color. Verizon is Penske's new sponsor.

      "The '10 Verizon Championship Racing platform will include Will Power, Helio Castroneves, Ryan Briscoe. Penske Racing said that the deal is a "key element of a multi-year deal with Verizon Wireless that began this year."


      Sorry guys, your joy is short lived once again.
    • What facts?
      Marlboro gave HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of tickets away to IRL events. No more red hats. People are upset too.

      Folks don't like the IRL which is why they don't buy tickets. Don't forget the NASCAR dealeo where IRL was once included in TIX EXTORTION PACK. NO more.

      How you gonna get folks to buy tix to events they don't want? Randy Bernard has his hands full. maybe he'll drag us all along, screaming and kicking?
    • Yee /Haw!
      Does this mean Racin Gardener is coming out of retirement?

      Yee Haw!
    • growth
      PBR averaged a .4 on REversus! That's growth for the EARL! I hear the irl safety team will respond on horseback in 2010 and a rodeo clown will perform during yellers to get some cross promotion! This feller is the answer!
    • Yee /Haw TRIVIA!
      IRL "Legend of the Brickyard" 'Bronco' Brad Murphey is a former bronco riding champion.
    • Izod Indycar Series
      Indyman, will you kindly post the contents of the letter you wrote to save Team Vision-le$$
    • IRl opens season in BRAZIL
      FOr those who can't get the IRL on Versus (Direct TV subscribers and those with terrestrial reception) the IRL is digging up the stretts of brazil to open their season on. This ought to be a hoot! Looks like they are 6 months behind on construction there. Oh well, out of sight, out of mind I guess.
    • I'm sorry, what letter?

      So the predictions are still not going the haters way. That has got to suck. I mean you dedicate your life to hating something and it just won't go away.
    • Izod Indycar Series
      Who cares that the new CEO doesn't have any open wheel racing experience. The last one apparently didn't either, gaging by the results of the 600 million dollars spent. the IRl, where everything is great as long as the bank account holds out

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