IndyCar Needs A Plan


I did my best to ignore all the tumult surrounding the possible ouster of CEO Randy Bernard and the possibility of Tony George regaining control of the series. I just sort of passed over reports of instability hoping that nothing would happen, and then the board fired Randy Bernard.

May 27, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; IndyCar Series ceo Randy Bernard prior to the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Not only did they fire him, they got rid of him in an amateur hour fashion that has become a hallmark of Indycar leadership. After letting Randy put together the 2013 schedule, and work on additional contracts, the board held an emergency meeting on a Sunday to get rid of him. An emergency meeting that came days after it slipped that he was out. What the hell were they thinking? No one knows because they still haven’t issued any sort of statement. I was a reporter for the better part of a decade. I’ve covered colleges losing their accreditation, non-profits disappearing and more political scandals then I can count. What separates a good organization from a dead organization often times is communication and honesty…two things Indycar hasn’t ever been good at.

For example look at the Central Asia Institute. Last year its founder Greg Mortensen came under fire for inaccuracy in his best seller “Three Cups of Tea” and potentially misusing the Institute’s finances. They took a beating that would have killed a lot of 501c3s but by admitting their mistakes, correcting them, and communicating that correction they are still operating today. The board of directors that control Indycar haven’t done any of those things. They created a mass of bad publicity and haven’t done one thing to mitigate that.

They need to put someone out to be the face of the organization right now. They have to explain what their plan is, the reasoning for it, and why they believed a change was necessary. Fans need this, teams need this, sponsors need this. If nothing else it can’t make anything worse. At least issue a three-paragraph statement.

So the question everyone who at all cares about the sport is “What’s next?” What is the board’s plan? Were they clearing the field for Tony George? Do they have someone in the wings with a bold direction? No one knows. I’m hopeful there’s a strong leader with a new management team being installed quietly, but fear that’s a foolish hope. I’ve worked for dysfunctional companies before, companies that later went bankrupt. In my experience when a leader is fired without a transition plan in place nothing gets done. There is no vision, few people are certain if they’ll be able to keep their jobs and momentum slows. In Indycar’s case we can probably accept that the Italian race probably won’t happen and there won’t be any significant changes for 2013.

Is firing Bernard the first step of a larger house cleaning? No one who knows is talking. I’m certain this lack of leadership is damaging the series. I’ve already let my family know we might not want to attend the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park this year, where we’ve camped at every weekend since its inception. I’m starting to regret all the Indycar themed Christmas gifts I picked up a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve put off buying tickets for St. Petersburg.

Indycar needs to get their heads out of the sand and start controlling news stories rather than letting the news cycle run loose. You want to get rid of the CEO? Fine, but at least do it with a plan in place.