Jeff Belskus, the interim CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series and president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has written an open letter to fans of the sport insisting that Randy Bernard was not fired from his position last weekend at an emergency board meeting of the owners.
"There has been, and continues to be, speculation and rumours that Randy was fired," admitted Belskus. "That is just not true. A mutual separation and an advisory role for Randy was accepted last Sunday evening in a special board meeting.
"Randy brought us fresh ideas and energizing leadership at a time when it was truly needed, and he helped us overcome the challenge of getting new cars created and competing," he continued. "We thank him for his contributions. Today, we still face challenges and are moving to address them immediately, but we also have a great opportunity and reason for hope from which we can build.
Belskus admitted that "without a doubt, the last few days have been challenging for the IndyCar community," acknowledging the sheer volume of sharp criticism that the series management has come under in the last week from media and fans, particularly over the way that Bernard's departure was handled.
Although it's been widely reported that the team owners at least were keen to see the end of Bernard's tenure as series CEO, the feeling was certainly not unanimous. There was even criticism of the way that Bernard's exit was handled from one of the leading team owners in the paddock, Roger Penske, who told the Associated Press
on Monday: "I'm very disappointed in this decision; the board continues to show poor judgement. There is no future plan.
"The series had momentum. New cars, new engines and new race formats, all brought about by Randy," he added. "No business can run with a senior management change every two years."
"What Roger said was spot on, no major corporation can succeed when there's a change of executives every two or three years," concurred Rahal Letterman Lanigan co-owner Bobby Rahal. “I've never seen a series with so many good things going for it consistently shoot itself in the foot.
"We've got great races, Randy put some great people in place there and got rid of a lot of the dead wood and I would just love to know the reasoning [for Sunday's board decision]. It's just embarrassing."
But broadly speaking the team owners backed the decision for Bernard to stand down as CEO, with Michael Andretti issuing a statement reading: "We believe that the board of directors of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, IMS President and CEO Jeff Belskus and the Hulman-George family will make the right decisions that leverage the many strengths of IndyCar for the benefit of the fans, teams, drivers, promoters and sponsors."