• UNCONVENTIONAL WISDOM:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

4 DAYS BEFORE INDY -- RANDY BERNARD

In what I believe is one of the more anticipated interviews in the almost one-year history of my The Race Reporters show, new Izod IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard will be the Newsmaker of the Week guest Wednesday at 7 p.m. (EDT) on PowerUPChannel.com.

With all great respect for my various media panelist friends, I've decided to do this interview one-on-one, to put my own long experience in American open-wheel racing to use. I hope to follow a logical path in my questioning with the desire to have time for as many sentences from Bernard as time allows.

I do expect some interesting roundtable talk with Mike Harris, John Oreovicz, and, yes, Robin Miller. (!)

God willing, I'll be at my 34th Indianapolis 500 this weekend.

It is a different Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At least, in terms of leadership. It was just one year ago that Tony George still lorded as one of the most powerful men in motorsports; yet only days away from the start of a series of events that would leave him on the outside of Speedway and Izod IndyCar Series management and decision-making (read that: check OKing) authority. IMS is now managed by Jeff Belskus, a long-time Hulman-George family employee. And the series Tony -- son of a racer, grandson of a racing legend -- founded is being run by a former cowboy executive.

I use that description for emphasis, not as a criticism of Bernard, who admits he had never attended a race -- let alone the Indy 500 -- before taking this job.

So -- more than anything this weekend -- I'll be looking for evidence of a change of attitude at the Brickyard. Did the old, bad, tradition-bound 'We're Indy. You need us. We don't need you!' arrogance go out the door with the numerous staffers who, candidly, needed to be replaced?

Based on a couple of experiences this month, I don't think so. I hope I'm wrong. As I've said many times, I don't think Indy will ever again be "Indy" in my lifetime. This, however, I know for sure:

The Indy 500, and the Izod IndyCar Series, will never turn the corner unless that breathtaking level of arrogance is banished -- once and for all -- to the ashbin of history.


NASCAR, its fans and all its constituency groups -- and certainly the France family -- were right to bask in the pride of Sunday's inaugural Hall of Fame class induction. Congratulations to all involved. Time will let us know if Charlotte will take a true place alongside Cooperstown. The only downside to me was hearing so many announcers gush with a flood of "we, us, our." And, that Dale Earnhardt Jr. couldn't bother to wear a suit jacket to such a ceremony.


Case Closed: Versus' Robbie (The Flub) Floyd and Lindy Thackston: In over their heads at Indy. And how could Vs. cut to commercial with four minutes to go on Bump Day?


Here's a good way NOT to start a news conference, presumably, one in which you wish the media to convey your message with a positive (read that: new sponsor seeking) tone. Why be adversarial and stick-it in the collective face of reporters? This came across to me like something terrible White House press secretary Robert Gibbs would say:

"As some of you may have seen on a Twitter post or somewhere else, RCR and Kevin Harvick have agreed to a multi-year contract extension for Kevin to continue in the RCR No. 29 Chevrolet Sprint Cup series car. As I said, multi-year agreement, no we aren't going to tell you the exact years and all of that good stuff."


I note, with sadness, the death last week of PR pro Marti Rompf. I dealt with her a lot going back to the early 1980s when she was on the Michigan International Speedway PR staff and I was CART's communications director. Marti went on to Atlanta Motor Speedway and then various PR assignments for Ford and its teams. She was a pleasure to work with. Marti was 67 and died at her home in Traverse City, Mich. God Bless.


Upcoming The Race Reporters guests:
(Show is live Wednesdays at 7 p.m. EDT, downloadable, and available on-demand at no cost. Click on TRR page logo in upper right-hand column.)

May 26 -- Newsmaker: Randy Bernard. Panelists: Mike Harris, John Oreovicz. Plus: Robin Miller.

June 2 -- Journalists Roundtable on Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Panelists: Holly Cain, Tim May, Al Pearce, Ron Lemasters Jr., Larry Henry.

June 9 -- One Year Anniversary Show featuring original Newsmaker John Force and first panelists Paul Page and Jon Asher. Plus: Special surprise guests from around the racing world.

[ Randy Bernard news nugget Thursday . . . ]