IndyCar CEO sounds off about team owners, Hunter-Reay move

May 27, 2011
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Even in the midst of celebrating the centennial running of the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard has his eyes fixed on the future.

Specifically, Bernard realizes the decisions he makes about the series’ new engine and chassis package to be rolled out in 2012 are critically important to the racing enterprise’s short-term and long-term success.

The open-wheel series hasn’t had new car specifications since 2003, and fans have become displeased with the lack of upgrades to the cars.

Bernard is debating on whether to roll out aerodynamic add-ons to the cars—those not made by the series’ sole chassis supplier Dallara—in 2012 or 2013.

New chassis will be rolled out for the season opener in March, 2012. And one camp is calling for the aero kits, which are key in making the cars look and perform differently on the track, to be rolled out next May. Another camp, primarily team owners, is pleading for the series to hold off with aero kit add-ons until 2013.

“I expect to make a decision on that by mid-June,” Bernard told IBJ on Wednesday. “It will probably be some kind of compromise on what fans and the owners want.”

Bernard said he hears fans’ complaints about owners dragging their feet and going against the desires of fans who buy tickets and otherwise support the sport. Still, it’s clear that IndyCar team owners have Bernard’s attention.

“It’s important to listen to the owners and drivers,” Bernard said. “I have a lot of respect for the owners. It’s important to remember that it’s the owners writing the checks.

“What’s more important, the aero kits or the teams maintaining financial viability?” he added. “I think the most important thing is not to lose cars and teams.”

Speaking of teams and owners, Bernard said he doesn’t have a problem with Andretti Autosport’s deal with A.J. Foyt’s team to replace Foyt’s driver with the sponsored Ryan Hunter-Reay. He pointed out that the rule that allowed the maneuver “has been there for decades.”

Sources told IBJ that Andretti paid Foyt about $200,000 to let Hunter-Reay replace his driver, Bruno Junqueira, for this year’s Indianapolis 500. Since Hunter-Reay didn’t qualify the car, he will move to the back of the field and start from the 33rd position.

“I think it’s Michael Andretti’s responsibility to do everything he can to take care of that sponsor (DHL and Sun Drop), Bernard said. “I want him to take care of that sponsor.

“I don’t think it hurts our credibility at all,” Bernard added. “Ryan’s a great driver. I think he could contend for the race. Now wouldn’t that be a story. If it was a bad driver … well, I’m not going to mention any names, but if it was a bad driver, I would have been sick.”

  • Ryan - here is your asterisk
    Well Randy Bernard sides with the owners in what they feel is right and against the majority of the fans. Sounds like typical "almighty dollar" pandering. Once again, it's no longer the "33 fastest drivers," it's the "32 fastest and the fastest to pull out their checkbook."

    Too bad that I have to work for a living - I would have loved to have gone to carb day (or the Parade) and handed Ryan Hunter-Reay his asterisk.

    No DHL or Sun Drop for me.
  • It is a tough call, because both sides are helping to pay the bills. Worst case scenario is losing cars and or teams which will have long term hurt on the league.

    One more year of similar looking cars will not hurt the fan base and that way you make sure the product is solid.

    There is nothing wrong with what Andretti did. That has been going on in racing for decades.
    • Right you are, Indyman
      BUT it could have been handled differently. Let Bruno stay in the car - and add DHL and Sun Drop decals to it. D&R did not buy Mike Conway's way into the field - even though he won the last race. They made sure that the sponsors made their way to Wilson's 22 car. Same basic deal, just done differently. Right is right and rich is rich. ;) I'm sure R H-R is a great guy and probably just doing what he was told but Bruno (and the fans) is the real loser.
      • Kudos to Indy Car
        Kudos to Indy Car for trying to find the appropriate balance between owners and fans. Randy is doing an excellent job of trying to get people in the seats while keeping the drivers and owners who provide the product content with being part of this storied racing business. I wish them the best.
      • Yawn
        Only about the money = boring = IRL

        I used to care, but things have changed.
      • I Love The Anonymity of the Internet
        But caring enough to offer commentary. Odd.

        They made the best of a bad situation at the 500. Most everyone thinks the deal stinks but no one has ever won from 33rd. That is not likely to begin now.

        The field is as deep as ever and the weather will be great. I'll be there for the 47th time.
      • I Love The Acrimony of the Internet
        Why was it a "bad situation"? That rule has been in place forever, so why are you defensively justifying it's use?

        Andretti Autosport lost their setup boi Tony Kaaanan when the Honda money finally dried up. I think it's great that that team stunk it up. The ride-buyout just exemplifies the pathetic-ness of it all.

      • leave alone
        bump day was great and check book bumping stop the whining whining fans ruin nascar with the awful chase rules where fair andretti autosport got egg on there face they when to dark side bruno mite get more race to do and do not have to bring money 2 teams want him its win win and yeah small teams make some money month was fun that what matter
      • patrick did not win
        i so happy wheldon won
      • a little off
        Mike Conway is now driving for Andretti Autosport (same team as RHR). He drove for D&R last season.
      • Thems the breaks
        All sponsors want to be in the 500, so I understand Andretti buying Ryan the car for a full-season sponsor. He kept Foyt's ABC sponsor on the car as well. Felt bad for Bruno b/c second time it happened to him in 3 years - Tags took his car two years ago when he had the sponsors but didn't qualify. Best banner at the 500: "K-Y Lubricant: Official Sponsor of Bruno Junquiera."

        While I'd like to see the new aero packages next year, I kind of like the fact that there's been a bit of an equalizer this year with almost a decade on the same chassis. Nice to see one-off teams in contention at the 500. New chassis w/o aero packages might leave the little guy still competitive in the first year. Aero packages are just going to assure that the moneyed teams that can afford to switch things around dominate again for the first couple of years. While they have to make those aero packages available to the other teams, most of the small teams won't be able to afford to buy multiple packages. Might not be bad to hold off while they're still growing the series back up. It's actually getting fun again and I'd hate to see them backtrack.
      • 100th anniversary = # 2 all time low
        "ABC's telecast of #Indy500 earns 3.9 fast national rating, up from last year's 3.6, with 6.5 mill viewers"!/AndyHallESPN/status/75649024140644352

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