Indy Racing CEO ready to put his plan in motion
Randy Bernard promised to shake things up when he took over the Indy Racing League last year.
Bernard was tasked with making open-wheel racing relevant again in the U.S. Still, it’s a sport overshadowed by NASCAR, which vaulted into the lead soon after the IRL went one way and Championship Auto Racing Teams went another in 1994.
The former CEO of Professional Bull Riders Inc. was busy during the winter. He approved several changes, including the IndyCar Series severing ties with International Speedway Corporation.
The series dropped races in Chicago, Kansas, Miami and Watkins Glen. Bernard opted for Speedway Motorsports Inc. race tracks in New Hampshire, Milwaukee, Las Vegas and Baltimore.
Like NASCAR, double-file restarts are among several rule changes for the IndyCar Series, which began March 27 with Dario Franchitti winning the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. There, too, are changes in pit lane selections, stricter qualification limits and restarts toward the flag stand.
The double-file restarts were slated only for ovals. However, owners agreed to add all races – including road courses in Birmingham, Ala. and Mid-Ohio in Lexington, Ohio.
Also, there’s a new 105-percent rule. That means all cars have to be within 105 percent of pole speed in order to compete in the race, which makes it increasingly difficult for some drivers, say Milka Duno, who usually struggles to qualify.
Duno, though, has a realistic shot at competing because most events will likely have more than a 26-car field. However, only 26 cars will earn a share of the total purse – including $36,000 for a 26th-place finisher.
Even as Bernard was focusing on competition, perhaps his most impressive accomplishment during the preseason was securing a partnership with Firestone, which is the sole supplier of racing tires for the IRL. The tire manufacturer had signaled it would not renew its contract, but later agreed to an extension that runs through the 2013 season.
“It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for us at Firestone Racing, but we’re proud to say that Firestone will remain the official Tire of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500,” said Al Speyer, executive director of Firestone Racing. “. . . We anticipate these latest generation Firehawks will continue to provide the reliability and sure-footing that the teams and drivers repeatedly mentioned in their overwhelming show of support as the agreement for us to continue past this year was ironed out.”
The 17-race season, which continues April 10 in Birmingham, Ala. and ends in Las Vegas on Oct. 16, will be in the last year of the current car package for the series. In 2012, the series will have a new chassis, engine manufactures and aero kits. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review