IndyCar boss must apologize for something he didn't do

April 26, 2010
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After years of hearing complaints from both sides of the Indy Racing League-Champ Car debate, I’ve long thought someone needed to stand up to the fans, sponsors and everyone else henceforth to considered collateral damage in this heinous war and simply say, “I’m sorry.”

“The split was wrong. What happened did serious damage to the sport and I’m sincerely sorry for all those whose lives were altered in a negative way.”

Did you notice I said ‘serious damage.’ I don’t believe it’s irreparable. But it warrants an apology to those who were wounded.

There’s a simple follow-up to that full mea culpa—one that will allow this series to go full speed ahead.

“Now I hope you will join me in re-building this great sport.”

The most logical person to make this statement is new IRL boss Randy Bernard. And he’s about half-way there.

Over lunch last Wednesday he admitted the open-wheel split was a mistake. A big mistake. It’s the first time I’ve heard someone anywhere near the top of IndyCar say that.

Bernard said high-up people on both sides of this thing have told him privately the split was wrong.

“It’s like a bad divorce,” Bernard told me. “No one wants to talk about it.”

It’s time. It’s long, long past time. If nothing else, the fans (and former fans) need to hear it. And nowhere else would this apology ring louder than to those long-time fans living in the shadow of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Maybe it’s escaped some people’s attention, but sports—motorsports included—is more than a sport for some people. It’s a livelihood.

I’m not talking about fat-cat team owners or hobbyists. I’m talking crew members, mechanics, machinists and others who dedicated their lives to their craft for decades. And lot’s of those people lost there jobs over this split.

I’m not saying that open-wheel racing wouldn’t have declined somewhat without the split, but there isn’t a rational person alive who would deny that the split widened the wound.

Many, many people would like to see Tony George make this apology. I don’t think that will ever happen. And at this point, I’m not sure an apology from George is appropriate. This isn’t about crow eating. It’s about healing.

Right now, there’s still too much bad blood, and not enough good will to regenerate this sport to where it needs to be. Running to foreign markets with a new chassis and re-made product won’t do it.

The people of the great Midwest are the ones that made this sport great and they, most of all, need that apology.

Sure, it’s relatively easy for Bernard to make this proclamation. Two months ago, he’d never been to an open-wheel race. But he’s the boss now. And his admission is no small thing.

So I asked him, why doesn’t someone stand up and say those magical words. I'm not sure I got a definitive answer. Give him time, he's just figured out where the men's room is at IRL's HQ and which restaurants to avoid downtown.

I know, this is ancient history. The IRL-Champ Car split happened in 1996 and the two sides reconciled more than two years ago. The war is over. Champ Car is dead.

Is it?

I remember in school studying the Civil War. And weeks after the war had been declared over, there were still small bands of warriors slaying each other, not aware that a long-term peace agreement had been reached.

Well, that’s when the Pony Express was the most reliable form of mass communication. With the Internet going blazing saddles you’d think we would be beyond killing ourselves long after the white flag has been waved.

I joked with Bernard about New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick’s penchant for saying the “past is the past,” even after an event has ended five minutes ago.
But the pain of the split isn’t in the past. And I think Bernard is coming to that conclusion too.

“I agree with Belichick that the past is the past,” Bernard said. “Until you need it.”

It’s time for Bernard to utter those magical words on behalf of everyone in open-wheel.

He knows the split was wrong. So do most people who still have power in this sport.

But Bernard—perhaps more than most—knows something else.

If IndyCar is going to survive going forward, he needs the past.

And everyone in it.

  • The Reconstruction
    I applaude you Anthony for talking straight to Randy about this. Every approach the speedway has made regarding the "reconstruction" of the sport has been noble....the exception being admitting culpability for the split and drawing the line in the sand so everyone can move forward.

    I propose the IF the speedway management is serious about the future of the sport they do TWO things:

    1. Admit culpability for the split. Admit it was wrong, it was disasterous for the sport and pledge to honor the entire past (not just the IRL portion).

    2. ABOLISH the IRL moniker and brand once and for all. This would be the gesture by the speedway that it was serious about healing.

    Until that happens...the war rages on. And we won't go screaming and kicking...
  • Reconstruction
    Excellent piece, Anthony, and I must say a noble reply from Chief. What he suggests is certainly not too much to ask. Perhaps if enough of us on both sides of this equation prompt Mr. Bernard to do so, he might just get this done for the good of the sport.

    Too much time is wasted chewing on what has happened and who is to blame. It is high time to get all this done. I for one don't see the IRL moniker as providing any value to anyone at this point.

    To those who hate what Tony did, saying IRL is like rubbing their nose in it. Nothing that connects to past actions that caused this mess should be given any relevance toward the future.

    And, by all means, combine the records. The champs of Champ Car are still champs and should be recognized as such. Not to do so is a disgrace.

    Anthony and Chief, here's my olive branch, perhaps we all should put some pressure on Mr. Bernard in a positve way to get this done so we all can move forward, together, in a positive way!
  • Past is Past
    Are we serious? The first weekend there isn't a race and this is what you choose to write about? Nobody cares about the split anymore. Get over it. Done. Move forward with life.
    • TOney TOney TOney
      Ropin Randy Should Read this first
    • That's encouraging
      I agree BerwickGuy.

      This all should have been rolled into the 2008 merger, but it wasn't. This also is an opportunity for the speedway to gain respect in the eyes of EVERYONE once involved in the sport. Perhaps Mr. Bernard has an objective viewpoint here that was absent from the previous IMS administration. This alone would be a signal of strength and sound leadership. Encouraging for everyone IF this is indeed where the perception of the AOW sport is to be directed.

      But, action is louder than words. And so is reality.
    • The Truth
      Excellent article. Must read for everyone.
    • lots of people care
      I'd say lots of people still care about this issue. And if you haven't gotten that by now, you're pretty thick. An apology
      coupled with a road map to a better future would still be appropriate. That move would also boost Mr. Bernard's status among
      the skeptical masses.
    • Censorship
      I don't agree with your article, so you drop my comment? It only proves how shallow are your writing skills and opinion.
    • really are you serious?
      Matt you have got to be kidding, you must not read this blog often. Things blow up about the split and how horrible Tony George is. Wake up dude. I agree that people should be over it but they clearly aren't.
    • The past is the past
      That decison to wreck open wheel / champ car racing is (was) so 1996. The drivers are not even the same. Get over it. Move on. Even if we can repaid what TG did in 1996, the great drivers are gone, never to race again.
    • Meant repair
      I meant "we can repair" not repaid.....
    • Goes both ways
      To those who find it necessary for an apology are you willing to forgive the speedway/hulman family/TG? You are asking for an apology and a future but you offer nothing in return. What, all of a sudden you'll be as much of a fan as you were pre-split? You'll buy those tix again, and go to the track frequently, and buy the merchandise. Yeah, sure. If all you want to is to take then you don't deserve to be given anything.

      I'm an Indy 500 fan. I don't, and have not, paid much attention to what goes on before and after May. So USAC/CART/IRL/ChampCar has little value. Put on a good show. Let us have fun and see some great action.
    • Maybe Too Late
      I applaud Randy Bernard for even considering an apology but it may be too little too late. I was a hard core open wheel Indycar fan. The split drove me to Nascar. Now after all these years, I totally enjoy Nascar and I can pronounce the names of all the drivers! I barely know any of the Indycar drivers and when you can buy a ride and have someone like Milka Duno on the track, I have no desire to return.
      • Paul
        What would we be taking?

        ANY positive gesture the speedway offered couldn't totally negate the 15 years of strife. BUT it would be a start. And it could remove the barriers that could lead to attendance gains and merchandise sales. I think the tradeoff is a gamble the speedway needs to take for the good of the sport as a whole, not just for the 500.

      • Hear hear
        I agree with Matt 100%. What year are you living in Chief, and for that matter, what year is the author living in? Live in the present. There is nobody out there involved (owners, drivers, etc) that cares anymore. What's done is done. Learn the lesson and move on. Rehashing this issue is pointless.
      • its all cart fault cart was f1 country club
        whos fault is it now terry angstadt tony george his sisters ed carpenter for being fake racer that why all dumb road cource are on schedule and in future
        • Apologizing for something you didn't do
          Excerpt below.

          I'm not likening this to the same degree, but the principle is the same: the Pope needing to apologize to the world for the actions of others when he had no control.

          The phrase is:

          "You might have not created the problem, but it is your problem."

          << â??The split was wrong. What happened did serious damage to the sport and Iâ??m sincerely sorry for all those whose lives were altered in a negative way.â??

          Did you notice I said â??serious damage.â?? I donâ??t believe itâ??s irreparable. But it warrants an apology to those who were wounded.

          Thereâ??s a simple follow-up to that full mea culpaâ??one that will allow this series to go full speed ahead.

          â??Now I hope you will join me in re-building this great sport.â?? >>
        • Typical tripe from the clueless
          Well if it isn't the Bob Krapitz of the IBJ.
        • Bob
          I live in the year 2010...but I have tremendous reverence for history. You apparently do not. Been to any street races yet, Bob?
        • Nonsense
          Complete. Utter. Nonsense.

          Time to stir the pot for web hits, eh Anthony? Nice job re-canning Oreo's article calling for TG to apologize. Minimum effort, maximum acrimony.

          Well done.
        • North of $20M
          Wow, and so eloquent. How quaint.
        • Tan
          Gee, Tan, such creative wordsmithing.

          Perhaps your fingers are too fat for your keyboard? I'm just thinkin' out loud......
        • Indy Races Are Interesting
          To brag that you can "pronounce the names of the drivers" in NASCAR (and I like NASCAR by the way) as opposed to IndyCar reeks of xenophobia and doesn't speak well to your intelligence. Also, the U.S. has been a melting pot for centuries now, and there are many American-born names which I am sure you would stumble on.

          In any event, the split is way, way old news. Time to move on, and for those who can't--good riddance.

        • good article
          Berwick Guy we finally agree on something!
          This is a hopefully positive story but the hardcores are going to resist as usual.
        • Dishonest and Pointless
          Anthony...stick to business writing and stop pandering to a fringe group not even oriented in this century. No apologies are necessary to anyone from the Indy Car Series. Those who feel they need one should grow up and try becoming real fans. This column is about the most stupid thing you have ever written.
        • Good will counting
          Nothing brings out the haters like good split talk. See, the CART haters don't want to budge one inch. They like being on top and don't want to relingquish any part of control. Sad for them, it's not about control, it's about closure and a fresh beginning. Oh well, nice try Anthony.
        • No apology required, but one needed
          Anyone who says no apology needed doesn't know a thing about public or customer relations. This isn't about letting go of the past, it's about taking hold of the future. Just do it, Randy!
        • Where is My Apology for cart Scorched Earth?
          The premise of this entire column is flawed and the predictable fawning over it by cart enthusiasts is offensive to those of us who are actual racing fans. Move forward with your lives, orient yourselves in this century, and simply enjoy a great sport. Stop being so petty and immature.
        • TOney TOney TOney
          600 million dollars Moe
        • Izod Indycar Series
          According to TOney GEorge, the IRL was bankrupt every year of its 15 year existence
        • Handling The Truth
          And yet Indy Car is not only surviving, but growing. It has a committed title sponsor busy activating the brand in new and imaginative ways. Attendance is good so far. Car counts are up. There is no worry about number of entries for Indy. cart and its successor organization remain dead. Is it not time for all fringe hooligans to finally grow up and accept the truth? The sport is worth enjoying.
        • Not as the IRL it ain't
          The IRL moniker MUST go. It's a confederate flag, a swastika, a civil war and a holocaust all rapped into one nice little package.

          You have the apology for CART's scorched earth in your's called the IRL. Dispense with it, the wars ends. So simple, a caveman could understand it.
        • Moniker must go
          I have to agree with Chief on this one. The IRL moniker must go. That would heal a lot of wounds, and I think Randy Bernard is coming to this realization.
        • The Indy Car Name
          I could care less about the term IRL. I don't care whether it stays or goes. The words 'Indy' and 'Car' need to stay. That is the centerpiece of the series. The word 'Indy' gives the racing 95% of its legitimacy. 'Wounds' that need to be 'healed' are self inflicted. cart boycotted Indy. Anyone who feels so offended needs to GROW UP once and for all.
        • Hooter Morgan
          USAC and the IRL, both Indy centered racing bodies destroyed open wheel racing in the US. Deal with that truth
        • i am oval
          i do not give crap who runs it i only care about a good show
        • All Grown Up
          Hey Defender guy, you're getting all lathered up over nothing. Where did anyone say the "Indy Car" name needs to change? After all, it was CART that successfully marketed that name, long before Tony George had his first date, back when the sport was last healthy, BEFORE the IRL. So, it is a fitting name for the "merged" sport.

          Self inflicted? We didn't create the split, we were victims of it. Sounds like you are on the side of IMS management there "Defender". What are you defending?
        • Oh my....
          IRL just announced mini championships INSIDE the main for ovals and the other for roads/streets. Kinda like a NASCAR CHASE scenario but in mid-season

          Oh my....maybe the apology needs to come from "Indy Car" after all.

        • Ignore Defender
          Defender is a notorious IRL troll; fanatical, obsessive, abusive and impervious to reason. He has been banned from every racing forum in which he has participated, even hardcore pro-IRL ones.

          It's better not to respond to his posts - he thrives on negative attention, and will typically become increasingly melodramatic and abusive the longer any interaction continues.

        • Izod Indycar Series
          nobody cared at the end of '09 about the league championship, nobody will care about this new stuff either
        • irl name should stay its not a bad name
          because if sponser want to pay money for it make them do it its like nascar cup just like like izod indycar series that good marketing on daytona indycar race top speed when you put in plate at daytona indycar speed have to be around 245 mph that still slower than cart car at fontana and track are the same shape so it safe to run there cart car average speed at fontana 241 mph indycar have to allways have top speed over any fender car at any oval track fender car hit top speed 236 at talladega stockcar hit 227 mph talladega i know indycar will be still be faster if it hit 230 mph because it will be allways be faster in the corner they will be no g problem at daytona and talladega because the tracks are bigger and is not cutter track like texas
        • Bravo
          Finally an admission from someone at 16th and Jonestown. Too bad it wasn't Mumbles but he probably couldn't string that many words together. And if the new rodeo cowboy CEO is saying it publicly you can bet that the board shares his feelings. The best part of this is that it caused John Hooter to crawl from under his rock and attempt to delect it just like he has done the last 15 years. The best thing Bernard could do is issue a public apology before the track opens in May, drop the negative irl* title, fire Barnhart, open up the rules and Open Wheel might just recover.
        • barnhart have done a good job plus role have been down grade for many years
          yo mean fired terry angstadt get back to american racing i see we have robin miller fan you know he is crazy
        • Indy Car
          What most people have forgotten is that Dan Gurney, really started the demise of Cart-Champ Car etc. When he wrote the famous WHITE PAPER and had the backing of Roger Penske and Pat Patrick. Only Roger and AJ Foyt are still here from those busy day's long ago. Leave it die like it has, no apologise needed from any one the people that started it are now running in the Indy Racing League. Its a waste of time rehashing this old event. New people are involved with teams and new team owners and new sponsors put on a very good event.
        • I owe Tony a Thanks!
          Actually, the split created jobs. For at least the first 7 or 8 years of the split there were twice as many teams (cars/jobs) between the two series as there were in '95. If it wasn't for Tony dumb decision I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to hold a CART hard card for five years as a mechanic. Tony I didn't realize until now but I owe you a you a big Thank You! Your mistake changed my life.
          The only apology the IRL owes me is for making us watch Milka Dunno on the track. You want to look legitimate pull her out of the car and inform CITGO they could get better exposure w/ a Graham Rahal. They could use some good PR in this country. If they have to have a Venezualan, I think Davey Concepcion is free and could do just as well and.
        • irl owes know won apology it would be nice thou
          any way why are these track still use steel fence they need to use silicone air bed fence they can use steel support the bed at the back air bed is pretty strong and the bed is absorbing and you can get rid of steel line across the fence and its better for fans to see race at the track you can use air bed in indycar tub too
        • Too Late
          The appropriate time for an apology was about 12 years ago. The goal now is survival. When the product improves, the fans will be back, but never in the numbers pre-split.
          I simple do not wish to watch slow, to semi-pro races, slow ugly cars, and cookie-cutter tri-ovals.

          That doesn't make me a bad guy.
        • they need more oval and dump dumb road racing is very annoying in the irl
          it makes you anti american
        • IRL is DEAD
          In Robin Miller's mailbag 4/28/10....he states the moniker IRL is dead.

          I suspect the speedway has sent up a trial balloon. I will dance a jig when this officially is announced. Maybe even visit the speedway again....
        • Kravitz reports same.....
          Indystar's Bob Kravitz today writes a piece echoing Anthony and Robin's agreement about patching up the failures of the past 15 years.

          The time has come to do this properly...don't screw it up IMS powerholders...the future rests on your willingness acknowledge the failures of the past and forge a new future..together.
        • Agast
          Don't let chief fool you,,,,he misses TOneys' visions as much as the rest of you
        • They Can Keep It
          I despise the IRL and probably always will. For a New York minute I thought I might give it a try when Tony George was ousted, but the thought just reactivated my GERD. I haven't watched the Indy 500, a race I followed from childhood, since 1995 and no longer really even miss it. I still miss American open wheel, but the level of hatred the old-time CART haters had for that series PALES in comparison to my hatred for the IRL.
        • I ain't all "Peace in Racing" yet...
          Hey, I haven't seen any gestures from the Speedway yet. Let's not count our chickens...

          HOT NEWS fresh off the press:

          IZOD sez RYAN HUNTER-REAY ain't getting no more $$$$ after Texas. Mikey Andretti cryin the blues this AM!!!

          KANSAS SPEEDWAY set a NEW attendance LOW for IRL yesterday with less than 50 people in attendance for practice and qualifications.

          IRL...setting new standards EVERYWHERE. This thing is headed to a crash and someone better do something quick. The Hulman-Georges's need to infuse MORE $$$ to keep this baby afloat. Not looking good! And Talkin Terry Angstadt said he'd get Graham Rahal sponsorship...looks like he's got more work ahead..

          Don't shoot the piano player....I don't write the music...that's the IRL's job.
        • Izod Indycar Series
          Even the Verizon Can you hear me now? guy and his posse refused Team Penske's invite to Kansas. He did send a Who Cares? Can you hear me now? message though.
        • Ouch...
          15,000 at an AOW race in Kansas where NASCAR Trucks were the headliner. Looks like the NASCAR Tix Extortion pack removal has hurt the attendance of the IRL event pretty severely. Makes you wonder, what legs does the IRL have left?

          Honda wants decision by June 1st.

          Hunter-Reay no funding more from IZOD after Texas.

          OUCH....all this is going to leave a mark! All you need is rain during the two weeks of May and this whole deal will be in the gutter. $644 million and counting...
        • No more ISC tracks apparently
          I just learned that ISC/NASCAR is dropping all IRL events starting in 2011. This was reported in SPeedTV's SpeedReport Sunday evening May 2nd.

          Good bye to Kansas, Miami, Chicago, and the Glen. This makes Tony George's VISION even more blind. Death from $644 Million cuts...he who giveth also taketh away. I look for the Brickyard 400 to disappear in this battle as well.....
        • Apology?
          If you really think that an apology will help the sport, then you imbeciles in the Indy media and the dimwit fans in Indy who bought into the all oval, all-American driver, one chasis and one engine formula should collectively apologize along with T.George and IMS. It was a disaster from day one and you all rolled over and inhaled everything that TG and IMS spewed prolonging the agony. It wasn't until about 4 years ago that any of you, other than Robin Miller, questioned the sanity of the strategy, or did you all forget? You followed the fool and now you want an apology!
        • iman's issues
          Calm down F1, the people who bought into the biggest con in sports history still think there is nothing to apologise for. The Hulmanistas still around are still in lock step with the inheritor and they feel that it is wonderful that the all American oval series is dependant on foreign street races to survive.
        • The REAL Scoop
          Anthony, you scooped the world on this story. In today's Indystar (5/11/10) Randy Bernard has said "We need to blow up IRL," Bernard said. "It needs to be (known as) IndyCar....To the purist, (IRL) is a negative acronym. We need to get away from using it."

          See...this blog has credibility despite what Iman, Defender and all the other Hulmanista lackey bootlickers say. THE IRL IS GOING DOWN baby, and the chicks go wild!
        • obvious
          The funny thing is, Randy Bernard told me three weeks ago, he wanted to completely shelve the IRL moniker. I thought that was so obvious, I didn't think it was news. I mean, isn't that what the move to call the series the IndyCar Series all about ... distancing the series from its IRL branding.
        • Indycar
          And an important point: it was CART that made INDYCAR a household name before the IRL seized it as part of the Tony George split politics.

          So, what value was the IRL anyway (other than to poke the fans in the eye with it)? The sooner it's buried the better. ANd the apology would be accepted too...
        • Izod Indycar Series
          The IRL, even its name is worthless

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