USA Today talks about Randy Bernard Ed Note: Randy Bernard's presence seems to be helping the IRL already, as USA Today seems to think his hiring is newsworthy. That's a good start.
Randy Bernard will view his first Izod IndyCar Series race at this weekend's season opener in Sao Paulo, unusual for someone starting his 10th day running the sanctioning Indy Racing League.
Open-wheel fans concerned what that means for the sport might want to consider his track record building Professional Bull Riders into a mainstream sport that has claimed a 23% attendance jump through five events over this time last year. As 16-hour workdays immerse Bernard in his newest endeavor, he sees a similar opportunity but wants to learn as much as possible before making any changes.
"For only nine days on the job, I feel like I'm getting comfortable," said the former longtime PBR CEO, who succeeded IRL founder Tony George. "At this point I'm just trying to get a grasp on things. But (in the short term), I want to try and build our objective on making and building the drivers into bigger stars.
"We need sponsors to activate platforms, we need TV to build passionate story lines but we really need great competition to show what we're about."
On that point Bernard's timing couldn't be better. The series is coming off a season in which 12 points separated champion Dario Franchitti, teammate and runner-up Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe in the circuit's third-closest margin between the top three drivers. This trio exchanged the lead a record 15 times, with 33 points separating first to third during the season.
He takes over a series in which its most popular driver, Danica Patrick, just completed a three-race introduction to NASCAR and will dabble with the undercard Nationwide Series as time allows during the 17-race IndyCar season.
While that has fueled speculation she will switch from open wheel to stock cars full time, Bernard thinks the IRL will benefit from her moonlighting.
"She's been getting tremendous press, she generated tremendous buzz, and that only helps the IRL with the amount of attention she brings to IndyCar," said Bernard, 43.
"But as she is a superstar, so are Helio (Castroneves), Tony (Kanaan) and Dario. My job is to make sure there is more than one superstar, and what (the series) needs to continue that is developing more stars."
Especially American ones, who are in short supply this season. Patrick leads a trio of female full-time drivers, a series best. But she's one of only four U.S.-born racers, and the most notable absentee is Graham Rahal, who will miss the season opener while seeking a ride.
In lamenting Rahal's absence as "not good for the sport," Bernard notes the object is putting the best two dozen drivers on the track.
Bernard also expressed optimism that network partner Versus will resolve its dispute with DirecTV and Comcast and eventually allow the league to reach more households. That the season opens in another country for the first time is significant, because he leaves no doubt about wanting to take IndyCar to another phase — once he sorts it all out.
"My job is to reignite traditional fans as well as creating new ones," he said.
"People ask what is our competition, and I say, 'Anything that's entertainment.' " USAToday.com