IndyCar drivers defend Bernard

IndyCar drivers came to Randy Bernard's defense Monday after a three-hour safety meeting he organized generated "positive and productive" discussions.

Nearly two dozen drivers attended the closed-door session at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and several said IndyCar's CEO is being unfairly criticized in the aftermath of Dan Wheldon's fatal accident Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"He had nothing to do with how poorly we were all driving," Graham Rahal said Monday.

Wheldon was killed in a fiery 15-car accident on lap 11. Several cars were three-abreast as they swept through turn one on the fateful lap.

"It's very unfair to criticize Randy, completely wrong," reigning and four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti said. "And finger pointing is not going to do any good here at all."

The drivers did not divulge specifics discussed in Monday's meeting with three senior IndyCar officials — Bernard, chief steward Brian Barnhart and technical director Will Phillips — but they believe it was a good first step.

"We all got to talk a lot and listen a lot," Franchitti said.

Rahal said outsiders must realize IndyCar has a new car on the way for 2012 that has been designed with new safety measures. Plus, there are five months to make adjustments.

"What people need to understand is we're not going to make motor racing 100 percent safe," said Tony Kanaan. "That's the fact. As long as we can leave with the fact that what we do is very dangerous and we can keep making it better . . . Not just on the racetrack, there's a lot of things we do (from which) everybody (benefits), everybody at home, everybody who drives a car every day . . . we're the lab.

"So hopefully we'll make it better, we'll make it safer, but we'll never make it 100 percent safe."

Franchitti said IndyCar as a whole has an obligation to try.

"But we're going to do everything we can to make it safe," he said. "We lost a very, very good friend last weekend, and that's not acceptable. We're going to try to improve things."

Rahal said everyone "is on the same page with this. Literally everyone was saying the same thing."

Franchitti (Honda) and Kanaan (Chevrolet) are scheduled to take their first laps in the new car next week at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. Indy Star

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