There's been an undercurrent of negativity since Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened May 9 for preparations for Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet team owners have been upset since losing a pair of appeals protesting a component of rival Honda's turbocharger. The anger spread to other manufacturers when IndyCar last Sunday levied fines throughout the garage that, when all said and done, had reached $300,000 for 19 infractions among 13 different teams.
"I've been involved now in racing for 28 months, and what I've seen is this unbelievable amount of passion to win, desire to win, not only from drivers but mainly from team owners," Bernard said. "When a call is not made in their direction, of course they're going to be upset."
Asked about rumors that team owners have banded together to make a case to IndyCar's Board of Directors to have Bernard removed, the CEO smiled and stayed on message.
"You know, I'm not going to really take away from the Indy 500," he said. "I think that the Indy 500 is why we're here. I think, again, the team owners, their passion to win, there was a very upset team owner and still is. But I think it's very clear that IndyCar is not going to play favorites.
"I think what you saw with penalties this week, it wasn't one-sided. If there was an infraction, it was given. We reported those. That's the new IndyCar."
The "very upset team owner" is powerful Roger Penske, who stopped speaking to Bernard sometime after Chevrolet's first appeal was denied. But Bernard and Penske met on Friday at the speedway for their first conversation in about a month.
Bernard inherited a huge mess of a series when he was hired to replace league founder Tony George. Despite a dramatic reduction of series-accumulated debt, increased attendance and television ratings, the introduction of a new car, and multiple engine manufacturers, many team owners remain unimpressed.
One issue is costs — the new Dallara DW12 is more expensive than owners were led to believe, and exclusivity contracts with the manufacturer means teams can only purchase replacement parts from Dallara. There also seems to be a disconnect in how information is being disseminated to the teams, and criticism toward many of Bernard's top series officials.
"We have a very competent IndyCar tech team," Bernard said. "I think I'm going to stand behind their decisions." StarTribune.com