IndyCar CEO, team owners at major crossroads

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Earlier this season, at least one IndyCar team owner wanted series CEO Randy Bernard fired.

While some owners more recently have come to Bernard’s defense, the relationship between owners and IndyCar’s chief executive seems tenuous. The two sides certainly have their differences of opinion.

Bernard wants aero kits for 2013. Team owners are skeptical of what they’ll do to the sport and its financial viability.

Bernard wants the series to grow from 15 races this season to 19 races in 2013 and 22 in 2014. Team owners say growth must happen in the right markets or it threatens to put them out of business and will inhibit new teams from joining the series.

IndyCar officials this month are making trips to Austin, Phoenix, and Pocono to examine possible future racing venues. Bernard promises there will be other site visits and says he hopes to unveil the 2013 schedule in early September.

“I haven’t determined the direction of aero kits, but we need to do that soon,” Bernard said. “I like aero kits. Team owners don’t want them for sure.”

Bernard likes them because fans want them, and the kits give manufacturers another chance to brand themselves and show off their technological wherewithal.

The aero kits will change the look of the IndyCar’s chassis. And while series officials say they’ll only cost teams $75,000 per car, car owners say the addition of aero kits will increase the cost of racing an entire season $250,000 to $350,000 per car.

“We recognize the desire from the fan base, but the biggest thing is trying to get our budgets under control,” said IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter.

Carpenter points out that the cost to run the new chassis and engine package that IndyCar rolled out this year is 25 percent to 30 percent higher than what series officials promised it would be last year.

“It’s quite a bit,” Carpenter said. “It’s increased the price of general operating costs, general maintenance and crash damage.”

The series must work with its sole chassis supplier, Dallara, to get costs down before introducing the new costly aero kits, team owners said.

The idea of having a sole supplier, Carpenter said, was to keep costs down. He said that having a sole supplier seems to have increased costs, noting that it’s significantly more expensive to run a car this year than in 2011.

Carpenter said that not only are parts more expensive, but some, such as the car’s carbon brakes, “aren’t lasting as long as advertised.”

“Until we get some of these things under control, I don’t think aero kits need to happen,” Carpenter said. “I don’t think it will be good for the sport.”

Carpenter, like other IndyCar owners, has concerns about Bernard’s plan to grow the series schedule.

“It’s easy to say we need to grow the schedule, and I’d like to race more, but we need to make sure we’re doing the right races and entering the right markets.”

Some owners are calling for more ovals, while others are cautioning that entering Austin could hurt existing IndyCar races in Houston and at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. While Pocono and Phoenix are intriguing possibilities, owners want to make sure those are desirable markets for their sponsors.

Carpenter said only venues that can afford a solid sanctioning fee to host a race should be considered.

“That way, purses can increase and we can cover our expenses,” he said.

Bernard said he and his staff hope to work more closely with promoters and host cities to ensure races are successful.

“The business model has to change,” Bernard said.

Bernard said there’s no cut and dried answer to how many ovals versus road and street courses he’d like to see on the schedule.

“I’m looking for the best race track and promoters we can get,” he said.

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