IndyCar executive’s fast exit leaves unanswered questions

The loss of IndyCar Series Chief Operating Officer Marc Koretzky doesn’t rate up there with Danica Patrick defecting for NASCAR, but it certainly doesn’t appear to be a positive development for the open-wheel series.

Series officials are giving no reason for Koretzky’s departure or any information on where he’s headed. A voice mail left on Koretzky’s cell phone this morning asking for an explanation went unanswered.

Koretzky's departure isn't the sort of thing that affects fans much. But it might make the series' corporate partners who dealt with Koretzky wonder about the series' stability and direction. It's up to Bernard to assure those interests all is headed in the right direction.

Following October’s 2011 season finale—which was cut short by the accident that killed Dan Wheldon—Bernard replaced 15 percent of the series’ front office staff and overhauled the series’ executive ranks. It’s not clear if Koretzky is another step in Bernard’s house cleaning or if the series COO simply dashed off for greener pastures.

The latter wouldn’t be uncommon in the world of professional sports, where the next BBD (Bigger Better Deal) seems to be just around every corner. It’s important to note that the rest of Bernard’s new executive staff stays in place. So I’m not suggesting a mass exodus or Armageddon.

But this much is clear. In March when I interviewed Koretzky, 35, he had been given broad authority by Bernard in day-to-day matters and was designated as one of the key people who was going to help transform the series. He also was a chief player in the series’ marketing efforts.

As part of his staff re-organization last fall, Bernard promoted Koretzky from director of business development to COO.

“We became familiar with Marc through his work with [IndyCar team owner] Roger Penske on the Super Bowl in Detroit,” Bernard told me in March. “He’s articulate, goal oriented and very focused.”

Bernard’s confidence in his lieutenant was bolstered last year when Koretzky headed promotions for the series’ finale in Las Vegas, including brokering a deal to have 34 open-wheel cars paraded up and down the city’s famous strip. The race ended badly, but the marketing and promotions for the race were solid.

Koretzky in March described his role with the series this way: “I’ll handle all the little details on a granular level. I’m the guy from the corporate side working behind the scenes.”

Koretzky to-do list this spring included working on promoting the series’ new engine and chassis formulas; raising the profile of series drivers; and helping improve television and other media coverage of the series.

But there was one even higher priority.

In March, Koretzky was clearly displeased with the way IndyCar departments communicated and worked with one another. He felt it was hindering the series from achieving a unified approach to its challenges. Koretzky had hoped to be a facilitator and to improve cohesion within IndyCar’s front office. It’s not clear if he achieved that goal.

“My first priority will be to further develop the executive team and make sure we have a common vision,” Koretzky said.

Before joining IndyCar in May, 2011, Koretzky worked with the NFL as director of operations for Super Bowl committees in Atlanta, Houston and Detroit.

Koretzky, who has an undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Georgia State University, also has done operational consulting work for the NCAA’s Final Fours and at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Prior to coming to the IndyCar Series, Koretzky served as director of strategic development for Atlanta-based 360 Sports Academy LLC, a firm that offers training and consulting for student-athletes and their parents.

He certainly seemed like the type of guy you’d want to keep on your staff. But then again, talk is cheap.

Maybe with Koretzky, the rubber never met the road, and Bernard did a quick 180-degree turn. Or perhaps Koretzky ran into an impassable chicane. We may never know.

Either way, only one thing matters to the series' corporate partners. Chicanes and 180-degree turns aside they need to be assured that Bernard and the remaining executives are united in propelling this series in a single direction. Up.

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