|Randy Bernard at Infineon Raceway Saturday|
Randy Bernard answered a number of questions regarding the status of the IZOD IndyCar Series on Saturday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California where the series is gathered for the final road course race of the season. Bernard leaves for Europe next year where he will begin perhaps his most important task yet - convincing another car manufacturer to become a partner in the IndyCar Series. If he is successful it will be the defining moment in his career.
"I'll be leaving for Europe next week," said Bernard. "We are going directly to Italy and then England and maybe we'll make one more trip to Germany."
Q: Have you had any feedback concerning the regulations as outlined? Was the Global Racing engine considered? It was proposed but we hear the manufacturers feel they would be at a disadvantage against Hondas V-6.
A: I don't want to come across as an expert because I'm very new to the sport, but what we did do was allow the ICONIC committee to evaluate the GRE and they felt that given the prolonged high speeds we run on the ovals and the number of miles we wanted between rebuilds the GRE did not work. We haven’t had very good input from Manufacturers who are interested in getting involved with the GRE.
Q: Is one of the reasons you’re going to Europe is to see what their feelings are?
A: I'm going over for several reasons first of all we do not just want their participation over here. We want them as a partner. Our job is to show them that we can participate as a good partner & it’s one of the biggest auto industry markets in the world so why not be over here. 2nd I want to talk about engines and 3rd I want to talk about aero-kits and show them that they can create brand identity.
Q: What about the Asian manufacturers
A: We don’t want to leave them out so we will be making a trip but right now we have certain ones that have called us and are very interested. We want to get on them as quickly as possible. We are running out of time-we know that. Cosworth said they could be ready if they had a partner by mid November but most others have told us November 1st.
Q: How about American manufactures, are they interested
A: We have some American manufacturers that are interested. Some of them really like the fact that they can create brand identity. Everyone is keeping things close to the vest right now.
Q: Are the manufacturers waiting to hear about the rules at this point?
A: Some of them are and the fact that they are still a bit generic is helping. This allows them to have some input into the process. Hiring Tony Cotman as the new car project manager was the right thing to do. I have had more emails this week saying he was the right choice than I have ever had. He is running around this weekend talking to team owners having some meetings. He is also talking with the auto manufacturers to get their input. This is going to be a team effort. Everyone needs to be on the same page. It is a big step forward. It's our future I think we have the right guy with Tony Cotman is the right man. I've had feedback with the team owners and they are happy -they think it is a good move we are about making the team owners happy here.
Q: What do thing about the changes to the track especially the turn that got Will--the new yellow lights?
A: That’s credit to Brian Barnhart-when he came back from Texas Motor Speedway--he liked their system there and he asked his team to come out and work with him. I’ve heard good things back from the drivers. I think the drivers are happy that’s what it’s all about making the drivers happy.
Q: Is your Texas doubleheader planning over or are you still working on it? Might you inverse the field for the 2nd race?
A: I think the fans would love it you know (inverted field) right now we are just getting some input on that, we don’t want to rush it before we make any kind of a decision. We want to make sure the drivers and the sponsors are all on the same page with it-you are never going to be able to go with what everyone wants, but we want to make sure we are not leaving out any decisions on the exact format.
Q: Would you allow backup cars to be run in the 2nd race if a driver falls out or crashes from the first race?
A: That would be fun - the fans would love it. It's about entertainment and showing good racing
Q: What about the 2011 schedule, are you close to finalizing it?
A: Yes we are pretty close to finalizing it. We had some hiccups with all the changes NASCAR made last week. But they are easy to overcome. The great thing is our car count is up and we have more promoters who want our races. The great thing is that we had to turn some away, so we are excited. I don't think you’ll see any surprises when we announce it. Our dream schedule would be 50% ovals and 50% road courses - that's our goal to keep a very consistent schedule.
Q: This track has seen increased ticket sales. How are you feeling about that?
A: I think Steve Pate is one of the greatest promoters out there. I want to go on record that SMI is one of the greatest promoters out there, and if it's an SMI track and if they give us an opportunity we are going to listen. They do a great job. I had dinner with Steve last night. He is a forward thinker. You can't beat the beauty of this place. Steve Page showed us some of the things he likes and what he wants to do next year-we are on the same page. I love that his vision is something that we can do together. That's what I want from promoters- it's not always about money. If the money is equal show me what you can do to build the sport.
Q: What about the season finale being in Las Vegas next year?
A: We have a lot of work to do. It's no secret that we feel Vegas would be a great fit. I mean its sexy, its showy, it’s a life style, it has everything you want that Indy car stands for but we also know we need some great partners there and I have a great relationship there with LVCA and the city of Las Vegas. I want to make sure that they encourage us and support us so that we could put this together, if not there are a couple of other promoters that are willing to take the risk so I'm not saying we are in Vegas next year by no means. I mean we have some serious work to do in a very short period of time.
Q: How is it working with Bruton Smith?
A: I was able to spend about 2 1/2 hours on Tuesday night, just him and I sitting in a green room in class - it was a cram course on race promotion - it was a great time
Q: What about China? Terry Angstadt made a couple of trips there.
A: We feel it would be a great fit. International will continue to be a play for us in a small capacity, but we don't want to try to take many events out of the states. We also want to be an international brand and China is one of these where American companies and the world economy has moved toward, and we feel it's a great fit so Terry has been doing a fantastic job of going over there but nothing is imminent.
Q: What about ISC, do you think that relationship has soured?
A: I wouldn't say it soured I wasn't quite sure that their objectives and our objectives fit. I'm a good friend of Lisa Kennedy and John Saunders but I think that they have their own objectives and we have our own objectives and they might not be on the same page. Why try to push something that doesn't work. I wish them the best and I'm sure that they wish us the best. We are still talking. There might be a couple places that we could possibly be interested in if it were it were the right circumstances.
Q: What about television, are you happy with TV and the promotion and so forth?
A: Our network TV ratings are flat there is no secret about that, but our cable TV is really good. We are up about 25% and that's exciting. I have big meetings this week with Versus in Chicago and we are sitting down and are going to talk about how we are going to promote this better on main street and how we continue to show double digit growth going forward. So our meetings this week will be pretty intense I'm sure. We need to stay focused and get what we want.
Q: If Comcast gets NBC are you going to try to move to that network if possible?
A: That's a great question I have been asked several times we have a contractual obligation with ABC for 2 more years. We'll honor that I think we are the second longest standing sport with a network TV (ABC). CBS the masters is # 1. The Indy 500 on ABC is # 2, so they have been a great partner so we r going to continue to honor that partnership, but I will say we have had interest from networks out there, but right now I will say we want to focus on seeing our contract out.
Q: are you happy with the promotion of ESPN/ABC are doing with this?
A: I'm never happy with promotion unless we are increasing ratings so I mean I also am a firm believer if you speak very honestly when ratings stay flat that's not good. So we need to show growth, we need to show a story line, we need to create some heroes. ABC is a great partner. We can work together real well.
Q: Since you are 2/3rds through your first season what’s the ride been like?
A: Fascinating! I wish they hired me 6 months before or 6 months after we had to pick the kind of car. That’s not the way you really want to start, but I am so thankful that I was here at this time because the opportunity to learn more about the engines and the different competition and competitors out there, and it allowed me to spend more time with fans and sponsors on what is important to the series, so to be honest with you I kinda got kicked with a golden horseshoe on that because it allowed me the chance learn quickly - we knew we had 75 days and there was no time. The whole experience has been overwhelming, remarkable. As you know I live in LA and my wife has told me I've been home just 3 times since Jan 1st. It's gone so fast it hasn't even dawned on me that I had much opportunity to go home. I got to go home for the Long Beach race.
Q: What about the issue of the Indy Lights chance having a guarantee to move up to IndyCar?
A: That’s important to me. It's very important that we have a ladder system that works and that there is upward mobility for everyone, a system that will allow people to know if you are the best you have a shot of going into the IndyCar series. That I have to pay for and that that’s what I'm working on now. We need a budget that is viable to help the Indy Lights champion move into the series. I'm hoping that will come together really quickly. I also feel it is very important that, and that I have said many times, we have to be known as having the best drivers in the world and I think you will see some decisions that will reflect that. We can't be about a rich man's sport we have to be about the best man's sport.
Q: What kind of decisions?
A: You have to wait sorry I can't answer that.
Q: Any interest from Mazda in badging the next Indy Lights engine?
A: Mazda really likes IndyCar we had some conversations but nothing to that degree. They're just figuring how they can fit in and create that road to Indy. They really like it so everything is open right now.