IndyCar CEO thinks series will benefit if American wins
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard believes the series has shown this season it has some of the best drivers in the world, and an American winning the championship would be an added bonus.
"I think that it's very important that IndyCar has the best drivers in the world," Bernard said Sunday. "That's what we want to make sure we focus on. Whether the champion is from Brazil or Australia or the U.S., as long as there is a great battle down to the last race, that will be very exciting."
Ryan Hunter-Reay entered Sunday's race at Edmonton as the first American to lead the series standings since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006. Bernard acknowledged Sunday an American champion gives the series more marketing possibilities.
"As far as being an American, of course that's going to play well being a North American series," he said. "Ryan would be an outstanding champion, just like Will Power or anyone else. But being an American in a North American series, yes, there would be some advantages from a promotional standpoint."
Hunter-Reay won the last three IndyCar races prior to Sunday to take the points lead for the first time in his career. He picked up another championship point on Saturday by winning the pole, and carried a 35-point lead over Power into Sunday's race.
Power had a commanding hold of the championship race prior to Hunter-Reay's winning streak.
IndyCar went into Sunday with a five-driver race for the title. Also in the running are Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe. All are trying to unseat four-time champion Dario Franchitti, who has won the last three IndyCar titles.
Bernard wants the focus to be on the title race itself, and not solely on the nationality of the champion. He pointed to the popularity this weekend of Canadian drivers Alex Tagliani and Hinchcliffe, who also had a breakout weekend in IndyCar's last event in his hometown of Toronto.
"We have fantastic drivers, this isn't a shoo-in for Will Power," Bernard said. "You have so many people that could win this championship yet, that's what is really fun. And what is going to drive and build our audience is the competition level. As an average (sports) fan, I personally want to go see the very best.
"It's important for us that we get that out, for our credibility, that we have the best drivers in the world, period." Huffington Post/AP