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Bernard's strategy pulls owners into line
4 June 2012
IndyCar boss Randy Bernard has insisted that it was the right call to use Twitter to confirm rumours that one or more of the Chevrolet-backed team owners in the series was trying to organise a campaign to have him removed as chief executive of the series.
Last Tuesday, after the Indianapolis 500, Bernard posted a message on the social networking site confirming the rumours that had been circulating about a plot to oust him: "It is true that an owner is calling others trying to get me fired. I have had several owners confirm this. Disappointing," he wrote.
"I wanted to get out in front of the problem," Bernard told reporters at Detroit Belle Isle ahead of this weekend's follow-up event to the Indianapolis 500, insisting that it hadn't been a spur of the moment knee-jerk response to the problem.
"I had seven days to think about how I wanted to put it out," he said. "I didn't want to take anything away from the Indy 500.
"I felt like dead man walking," he admitted, referring to the behind-the-scenes mutterings that had been going on during May. "My mentality is, if you back a kitten into a corner, you come out fighting like a tiger. And that's how I operate," he added.
Bernard's strategy seems to have been to drag any brewing plots out into the full glare of the media spotlight, and dare the car owners to actually go to war or else to back down: put up or shut up, in other words. He also wanted to get a comprehensive sign of support from the board of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation who actually appointed him to his existing five-year contract just over two years ago in 2010.
If that was the idea then it seems to have worked, with public opposition quickly falling away at the same time that worried team owners were falling over themselves to get some distance from the plot rumours, even if it meant implicitly endorsing Bernard's stewardship of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"For those accusing me of being a conspirator, I am not the one talking and creating this story," said owner-driver Ed Carpenter on Twitter, who was seen by fans as one of the likely suspects because of his family ties to former Indy Racing League boss Tony George, his stepfather.
"Very disappointed in Robin Miller reporting things before knowing the truth! There is no lynch mob!" tweeted Michael Andretti, referring to the outspoken SPEED TV correspondent who had identified Andretti as a likely leader of the so-called conspiracy. "The truth is I'm not leading any lynching!"
The influential veteran team owner Roger Penske had already reconciled with Bernard after a frosty spell between them over "turbogate", and had spoken out in support of Bernard even before the Indy 500 last weekend. Bernard had also confirmed on Twitter that Penske was definitely not the car owner he had referred to as leading the calls for his ousting.
And in any case, at the end of the day the team owners don't decide who the CEO is.
"I am here for a board of directors ... That's who I answer to and I am confident that they support me very much," Bernard said. "I don't think my position was ever under any threat. My board has been very supportive."
Bernard did hold out an olive branch to disgruntled team owners, agreeing that it was part of his job to help reduce the costs of chassis and engine components going forward: "We need to help you, and we're going to work with you to try to bring those costs down," he reassured them.
Hopefully the firestorm in a teacup has now blown itself out over the course of the last week, and the spectre of any more damaging splits in the world of US open wheel racing scene are well and truly in the rear view mirror for a good time to come.
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