Since taking over as chief executive officer of the IZOD IndyCar Series at that start of 2010, Randy Bernard has faced intense scrutiny and criticism in the role. But long-time team owner Chip Ganassi has spoken up in support of Bernard and the work he's been doing since he arrived.

"There's a lot of facets in this sport that someone coming in from the outside has to learn. No one has been a more willing learner than Randy Bernard," said Ganassi.

He pointed out that there had been a non-stop deluge of issues assailing Bernard since day one, the result of a lot of essential planning for the future having been stalled or delayed during the unification process.

"Look at the things that have gone on since he came into the sport. We come with a new car, a new engine formula, a new rules package, new way of buying and distributing the cars and undertaking the testing," pointed out Ganassi. "The guy, just about every time he comes up for air, he gets pushed back under the water again.

"The good news is I think Randy's shown great ability to breathe underwater," added Ganassi. "So he's doing fine, I think."

Bernard took over from Tony George following the unification of the CART Champ Cars series with George's Indy Racing League under the new IndyCar brand, putting to an end a bitter and damaging decade-long split in US open wheel racing. With the split having caused a collapse in audience ratings for the sport in favour of NASCAR, Bernard - with a PR background - was tasked to rebuild the sport's popularity.

Some of these moves have proved controversial, including Bernard's insistence on double-file restarts called for by fans but opposed by drivers on safety grounds. Bernard has also been criticised for dropping oval races from the series - the newly-announced 2012 calendar features only five oval races during a 16-race season.

"Let me tell you, I love the ovals," Bernard told listeners on Indianapolis radio station WFNI 1070AM. "I know how important having ovals is: we want to define our sport as the fastest most versatile race cars and race car drivers in the world. The ideal scenario is where we positioned ourselves last year, with a balanced series.

"But it's not that easy. All these oval fans [who] keep telling us they're out there don't show up or watch on TV. We're up 9.8% on our attendance, but down on ovals," he said, adding that a recent extensive demographics and research study had revealed that only 15.7% of fans had responded saying that they wanted more oval races.

Bernard had been pinning many of his hopes for rebuilding the series on a successful IZOD IndyCar World Championship oval race at Las Vegas, even deciding that he and IndyCar would act as the race promoters themselves rather than signing with a local company to do the work and bear the risk.

"Look at Vegas, I put together one of the best marketing campaigns I've done in 15 years. I know that market as well as anybody," he pointed out. "I drew 96,000 people to PBR and [yet for IndyCar] we had marginal success at best," he said, comparing the situation with his previous job as CEO of Professional Bull Racing.

As part of that marketing campaign, Bernard was also behind the $5m challenge for Dan Wheldon to race for at Vegas, which some subsequently suggested was a factor in the subsequent fatal accident on lap 11 of the race that claimed Wheldon's life. Before the accident, Wheldon had been one of Bernard's biggest supporters and cheerleaders for his work rejuvenating the series, and the personal shock of his new friend's death was evident on Bernard's face when he had to face the press at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to make the announcement that Wheldon had not survived his injuries and that the race was to be cancelled - a decision that was itself criticised.

"A number of the purists or traditionalists want to question why I stopped the race. The mainstream would say it was the right call, but purists and traditionalists would say the wrong call," Bernard told WFNI 1070AM, adding simply than in his view, "It would have been in poor taste to go on."

After Vegas, Bernard opted to mainly keep out of the media gaze and he admitted: "It all put me on the defence for the first time in two years on the job; I prefer being on offence. I like to push new things out there. But until the investigation was done, you saw me withdraw. I don't like that, but it was what I needed to do."

There were suggestions that Bernard might walk away from the series, which would have been a body blow for IndyCar's future prospects. But Bernard insisted during his interview on WFNI 1070AM that he wasn't going to walk away from the job regardless of all the criticism, arguments and ultimately tragedy he'd gone through to date.

"Whatever I do, there will be challenges ... I never thought about quitting. I hear that all the time. I'm not a quitter. I have a five-year contract, and the only way I leave is if the [Hulman-George] family asks me to. I haven't lost any enthusiasm."

In the meantime, Bernard has overseen the publication of the official accident investigation report into the events at Vegas (which specifically cleared the $5m challenge of playing any part in what happened) and he also made the decision to move another much-criticised member of the IndyCar management, Brian Barnhart, out of race control to concentrate on other responsibilities as president of competition.

Bernard is also involved with the introduction of the new 2012 IndyCar Safety cell chassis - named the DW12 in honour of its first official test driver, Dan Wheldon - and is confident that the issues with weight imbalance and aerodynamic drag will be addressed.

Pointing out that TV ratings had jumped by 24% in 2011, Bernard insisted that IndyCar was on its way back and would continue to grow stronger in 2012. "There are a lot of positives. The average age of our fan base decreased by three years. We need to get those things out there; in my opinion, the sport is thriving right now.

"Is it where it was earlier? No. But we're working on getting back there."