SYNOPSIS: Randy Bernard was hired to save IndyCar. He’s done some good things but the series is going back to places where it wasn’t wanted because of a lobby group made up of fans, media and drivers/owners. And unlike NASCAR or F1 (where they make major changes almost weekly) howls of protest greet just about every progressive marketing initiative that he's announced. If the series hopes to grow, Bernard has to be left alone to do his job.
Dario Franchitti won the IZOD IndyCar Series race at Milwaukee on Sunday – and good for him – but once again we had a classic illustration of why IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has to stop listening to the drivers, owners and fans as to how to go about building that business and start running it the way he wants to instead.
Case in point. IndyCar stopped going to Milwaukee after 2009 because people stopped going to the races there. The reasons why don’t matter. They stopped going.
But almost as soon as Bernard was hired, people started clammering for a return to Milwaukee and I kept thinking to myself, "Why?"
Anyway, Bernard announced last year that Milwaukee would be back on the 2011 schedule and everybody was pleased as punch.
The race yesterday was conducted in front of grandstands that were at least half-empty.
If this was club racing, everything would be fine. But it’s not. It’s a commercial enterprise that’s failing and it’s failing because too many people are having a say in something they shouldn’t be having a say about.
The people who went to the race at Milwaukee on Sunday are, presumably, passionate about the sport. That’s why they were there. And the drivers and owners are also passionate. We know that.
But it’s Randy Bernard’s job, in partnership with the promoter(s), to fill the empty half of those grandstands.
By saying, ‘Hey, we’re back," ain’t going to do it.
That’s why double-file restarts were introduced (the drivers bitched about that) and the decision made to determine starting positions by lottery for the second race at Texas last weekend (bitch, bitch) and the upcoming insertion into the lineup at the final race of the season at Las Vegas of five non-regular drivers (we haven’t heard much bitching about that, but you can expect a crescendo as the event approaches).
These decisions were made not for the fans of Indy car racing but in hopes of attracting people who don’t normally watch or care about Indy car racing in hopes that they, too, might become fans.
Now there seems to be the beginning of a movement to get the Indy cars to go back to the Road America course in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
And as was the case with Milwaukee, I say, "Why?"
I suspect there are locations in North America where the IZOD IndyCar Series would be welcomed with open arms – places where the Indy cars have either never raced before or where they haven’t raced for a long time.
The people in charge, Mr. Bernard, et al, would be well advised to start taking a look at some of those places instead of old reliable places like Milwaukee and Elkhart Lake, where the people have indicated they don’t care any more.
And when the fans, owners and drivers start in with their two cents, thank them for their input and then close the door.
– Tony Kanaan spun out at Milwaukee yesterday – all by his lonesome. I can’t remember the last time Kanaan just lost the handle like that.
– Graham Rahal finished second behind Franchitti Sunday, followed by Oriol Servia, Will Power and Danica Patrick. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville drove to a sixth-place finish and that was a fabulous result for the young Canadian rookie.
Said Hinch: “The race was a lot of fun! Honestly, the Sprott car was so good and the team did such a good job in the pits. I didn’t test here and in practice I was getting us going in the wrong direction so we really leaned on him (Servia, his teammate) in qualifying and for the race setup and the car was great. To get a top-six at a track like this on your first crack at it is something we can be pretty happy with."
He might have lost the Indy 500 rookie-of-the-year award to J.R. Hildebrand, but there is no doubt that Hinchcliffe is showing himself to be the best rookie in the series.
– Last week, when I ranted about the complaining going on about the lottery at Texas, I said Franchitti had crashed the Victory Lane celebration to continue objecting. That was wrong and I apologize. Franchitti, as the winner of the first race, was asked to go to Victory Lane to participate in post-race celebrations, so he had every right to be there.
– Speaking of Franchitti, he was pretty vocal in a post-race interview about what he said was Helio Castroneves’s blocking.
- Franchitti and Power are now tied for the lead in the championship standings.
– The TV reporting didn’t seem to be as crisp or as sharp as it usually is. Ana Beatriz started to drift high when she was being lapped and you could see she was in trouble, eventually hitting the wall, but Marty Reid and Scott Goodyear both took several moments to catch on to what was happpening.
Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon (mistakenly identified as Franchitti) collided going into the pits and a tire was bouncing around pit lane and there seemed to be some confusion in the booth as to what was going on. A replay showing Sato running over a crew member elicited a somewhat muted response.
I don’t think those guys were watching the U.S. Open (although I wouldn’t have blamed them if they had been) but something just didn’t seem right.
– Goodyear said that E.J. Viso is "a great driver, in many respects," and I wonder if Jimmy Vasser, his team owner, would agree. Viso went off on the hook for the fourth time in seven races. If he was winning, that would be one thing. But he’s not. In fact, I think he’s a menace.
– Franchitti went into the pits and he hit a tire in the pit before his. Just brushed it, but he hit it all the same. There’s usually a penalty for that sort of thing – running over hoses, etc.
Just thought I’d point that out.
- Simona De Silvestro had a miserable weekend. She crashed, went to the hospital for stitches, and said later that she hurts just about everywhere. Although her hands are headling from the burns suffered at Indianapolis, she has to wear protective gloves at all times.
She finished 25th in the 26-car field, dropping out early because of her car's poor handling.