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.