Bernard, Franchitti agree: review format INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti huddled in the cramped hallway of the Bull and Finch Pub (the “Cheers” bar) prior to introducing MoveThatBlock.com as the title sponsor of the August race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to discuss the blind draw that set the grid for the second of the Firestone Twin 275s less than 48 hours earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.
Franchitti, who as the winner of Race 1 in the No. 10 Huggies car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing selected last in the 30-driver field, was vocal in questioning the credibility of the format following the second race won by Team Penske’s Will Power.
It’s not that he started 28th mind you; he weaved through the caution-free and fast (206 mph-plus average speed) to finish seventh. He believes the race would have been more entertaining for spectators, TV viewers and drivers if the Race 1 order of finish would have been inverted for Race 2. That was the case of the 17 Indy car doubleheaders from 1967-81.
VERSUS viewership was up 12 percent over the 2010 race at the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval. Overall, Franchitti dropped five points to Power in the series championship, and now trails by 21 points heading into the Milwaukee 225 on June 19.
“I took a lot of heat for my comments, but people don’t understand, in my opinion, the big picture,” said Franchitti, who broke a tie with Johnny Rutherford (28) on the all-time Indy car victory list and trails Rick Mears (29). “Had they inverted I would have started worse, but it would have been fair for everyone. I would have started last, Scott (Dixon) would have started second-last and Will (Power) would have started 28th. It would have been some performance parameter and that’s all I was asking for.”
Bernard understands the point, which was complemented in post-race comments from Dixon (the runner-up in both races) and Power. It’s a “live and learn” scenario.
“We have to evaluate everything we do this year and make sure that we are providing the best competition, entertainment and value to give that great fan experience,” Bernard said. “It was a little bit gimmicky and I take the blame for it.
“In saying that, I think it’s important to make sure we sustain credibility for that (IZOD INDYCAR) World Championship. I’m not convinced that what we did Saturday night does that. A draw takes away from that, especially if somebody loses the (title) by five points to a draw. The thing we want in our sport is the best drivers in the world. This isn’t about finishing 26th; this is about winning No. 1. If we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to bring those best drivers in the world over here and making sure they know if they’re the best in the world they’re going to win it.”
Franchitti said he appreciates Bernard’s candor and willingness to listen to concerns of all involved (drivers, team owners, manufacturers, track promoters and commercial partners) in advancing the sport.
“I really appreciate Randy taking ownership of the decision and the fact that it was the wrong decision and he’s not ducking the issue at all,” Franchitti said. “From now on I think we’ll see, I hope we’ll see, better decisions that affect the big picture like the championship. It would have been great as an all-star race or one-off or something like that, but not with a championship race.
“It was kind of a weird night because I won my 28th race, got in the top 10 all time, gained 21 positions in that second race and we’re not really talking about winning the race or anything, it’s all about that. It’s a shame because those were two hard-fought races and that win meant a lot to me.”
Bernard reiterated that the format will be re-evaluated and a plan for 2012, when the next generation IZOD IndyCar Series car will be introduced, will be presented to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.
“Eddie has been a great partner of ours and I think he wants the best for the sport, and I think if we went to Eddie and told him we think inversion is the best he’d understand,” Bernard said. “It’s not about his Texas Motor Speedway; it’s about 17 races in the year and crowning a world champion. The fans loved Eddie’s idea of turning the tires (for the draw).
“It turns out overall we’re up 12 percent, but my second-biggest concern is we were dead for 70 minutes in between the races. We were up 12 percent, so would we have been up 30 percent if we didn’t have a 70-minute lack of racing?” IndyCar.com