School is in session across Indiana this week.
So it’s only appropriate that we here at The Score review the grade of IndyCar Series boss Randy Bernard.
I’ve been criticized in the past for being too hard on Bernard, who took his post as CEO of the series March 1. Earlier this summer, I graded him a C+ on the job he’s done with the series, simply because he’s done a lot of talking, but really hadn’t accomplished much.
Well, I’m bumping him up to a B-, largely based on the addition of a handful of series and team sponsors and most notably two races (Mid-Ohio and Chicagoland) which have scored some pretty nice car counts.
Chicagoland, set for Aug. 28, has the largest number of entries (29) for an IndyCar race outside the Indianapolis 500. This is a pretty nice turnaround for a series that was worried about putting 20 cars on non-Indianapolis grids earlier this year.
I did some checking around with motorsports business experts and those close to sponsors, and most are saying the car count increase is due to an influx of sponsorship dollars, not ride buyers.
Fuzzy’s Premium Vodka helped put Ed Carpenter on the track and National Tire and Battery put Graham Rahal behind the wheel of an IndyCar.
In my book that’s a pretty good sign, especially at a time when many race grids across a variety of series are shrinking right now.
I’ve also been told by some solid sports business sources that this shows sponsors have confidence in Bernard’s vision for the series. That may be his biggest accomplishment to date. His ability to get them to pour more money into the series will be bigger yet.
Before I get lampooned by the IndyCar Series haters, I realize that TV ratings and attendance are still major issues. Nor am I convinced that Bernard’s solution for a new 2012 chassis is all that. But in the end, I’m big enough to admit, that my opinion isn’t all that important.
It’s the sponsors’ and fans’ opinions that really count. After all, it’s their cash that keeps the series going round and round. And right now, the sponsors are buying what Bernard is selling.
Who knows, at this rate, by the semester break, Bernard could earn himself a B by the professors here at The Score. Let's hope Bernard doesn't let this success go to his head, because as any good student knows, until the year is over, there's alway time to have your grade lowered.
And in the classroom of sports business, an F is never very far away.