Political interests being put before good of sport
Randy Bernard, the man who I happen to think has done a superb job running IndyCar against at times impossible odds, is in the midst of a political quagmire when it comes to the series' 2013 schedule. Drivers, most team owners and a large - and vocal - group of IndyCar fans want the series to return to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Now some would argue that America's finest road racing facility doesn't necessarily have a historical connection to IndyCar, but the fact of the matter is that "America's National Park of Speed" was a pivotal venue for the once-great F5000 series. And the road racing component of IndyCar racing has a direct link to that fabulous era of American road racing history.
Bernard's dilemma? One of the sport's all-time greats, Michael Andretti - the man who happens to hold the track record at Road America with a 1:40 flat - has gotten serious about promoting races in an expansion of his Andretti Autosport enterprise. He already promotes two events, the upcoming Baltimore IndyCar/ALMS weekend in the fall, and of course, The Milwaukee Mile. In fact Andretti has been very upfront about lobbying Bernard on The Milwaukee Mile's behalf, even if it means keeping Road America off of the IndyCar schedule.
In an interview with Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star recently in Toronto, Bernard confirmed that Road America would not only not be on the 2013 schedule, but from the sounds of it the track will be absent from the schedule indefinitely. Why? This is what Bernard had to say to Cavin on the subject: “I gave a commitment to Michael Andretti and his team that what we need to do is build the Milwaukee Mile first before we look at (Road America),” he said. “We could have gone there this year to fill the (schedule) void and Michael was gracious enough to (permit it), but it’s very important for us to stick to our overall plan.”
So, in case you need a translation, Andretti is forcing Bernard to put Andretti's interest in The Milwaukee Mile ahead of what would be good for the overall health of the IndyCar series, because according to Michael, having another race in Wisconsin at Road America would be counterproductive to Andretti's business interests. (Bernard had considered adding Road America to the 2012 IndyCar schedule after the China race was canceled, which is how the subject came up in the first place.)
What's wrong with this picture? A lot, frankly.
IndyCar is staying away from what should be one of its cornerstone venues because protecting one of its key player's business interests is deemed as being more politically expedient. And it stinks. Especially when most all of its participants - and fans - wholeheartedly agree that Road America needs to be on the schedule.
Why isn't an accommodation being made that could protect the fragility of The Milwaukee Mile and add Road America to the IndyCar schedule? That would entail scheduling IndyCar later on the Road America calendar, but perhaps the ALMS could be persuaded to move its August date back as well so a IndyCar/ALMS super road racing weekend could be created. Instead we're left with the status quo in an IndyCar schedule that is in desperate need of some serious juice.
The Bottom Line in this discussion is that political interests are being put ahead of what would be good for the overall health of the sport. Autoextremist