IndyCar chief executive officer Randy Bernard has reportedly been sacked from his post, RichardsF1.com has today learned.
In a hastily-convened board meeting at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the decision was today made to relieve Bernard of his duties for the final two years of his five-year deal, however he will be retained purely in an advisory role for this period, which in effect, means nothing.
The decision comes following growing discontent among IndyCar team owners, Tony George and likely former chief steward and George supporter Brian Barnhart, with the former grumbling at high costs involved with the new Dallara chassis which made its debut this year and provided one of the best seasons of racing in recent memory.
Plans for adaptable wings and bodywork were due to be implemented last year but were postponed until the 2013 season. Reports the team owners were being courted by George, the man replaced by Bernard, to launch a bid to buy the IndyCar series from IMS, were quickly shot down by IMS, although not entirely denied, who said the series was not for sale.
Team owners were also reportedly unhappy about scheduled double-header events for the 2013 season, saying they will be too expensive, while Bernard’s handling of the Dan Wheldon tragedy, which culminated in the sacking of Barnhart (among many other disgraces) and his replacement in the control box by Beaux Barfield.
A scheduled round of the 2012 season in Qingdao, China, which failed to materialise, is also understood to be among the bugbears of the team-owners and anti-Bernard campaigners. However, what hasn’t been widely reported is that the cancellation of this race came following a change of local government in Qingdao itself, with the new leader promptly tearing up the contract and denying the series a hefty payday through there now being no Asian race at all. The event was brought in to as a replacement to the cancellation of the longstanding event at Motegi in Japan.
Bernard was recruited in 2009 to steer the series on a more profitable path and to develop the series toward a more financially secure, long-term future, at the behest of Josie George, the sister of series founder and former boss Tony George.
He was headhunted by IMS after his efforts turning professional bull riding from a backyard operation to a multi-million dollar pay-per-view attraction. In his three years in charge, Bernard made the fans his Number 1 priority, opening his door and his email account to hear directly from concerned racegoers, and has delivered a new, safer car, new venues, restored the Triple Crown for the 2013 season and made a number of other fan-friendly decisions including returning Milwaukee to the calendar with super-low ticket prices.
Additionally, Bernard stemmed the tide of outrageous financial losses incurred under the George administration, which also saw vastly improved crowds at the annual series showpiece, the Indianapolis 500.
“We are very grateful for the tireless effort that Randy has invested into learning, understanding and working to grow the IndyCar Series over the last three racing seasons,” IMS boss (and former college room-mate of Tony George) Jeff Belskus said.
Having denied that Bernard would be fired just two days ago, Belskus now takes the interim role of as Bernard’s replacement.
So what now IndyCar? Another split? Out with the new, and in with the old is what it sounds like in another very embarrassing chapter for the sport…