Indy has earned some praise

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:30 PM ET

What follows is something you don't see a lot of in the Trackside column: Praise for the IZOD IndyCar Series and the decisions it made for the 2011 racing calendar.

The reason there hasn't been much praise here for open-wheel racing in North America, frankly, is that none -- for the most part -- was deserved over the past decade.

In that lost decade with the Indy Racing League and Champ Car being run by Darryl, Darryl and his other brother Darryl nothing was ever done right on both sides.

But newly minted IndyCar boss Randy Bernard is changing that inept corporate mindset.

And his first great move came with his insistence that he wouldn't lower the value of his product to keep it at International Speedway Corporation facilities next season was both courageous and absolutely correct.

ISC played tough in negotiations arguing that IndyCar drew flies at its tracks in Watkins Glen, Chicagoland, Homestead and Kansas and therefore Bernard should lower the sanctioning fees. To his credit Bernard told them "no thanks" and signed new deals at Baltimore, Milwaukee, New Hampshire and yet to be announced, but a done deal at Las Vegas.

Had he given in to the ISC tactics Bernard would have led IndyCar into the same death trap that Paul Gentilossi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe did with the old Champ Car series: Give it away for nothing or nearly nothing.

And we all know how that worked out.

By aligning himself with Bruton Smith and his Speedway Motorsports Inc., Bernard has deal with a guy who makes P.T. Barnum look like a piker.

Doing it without lowering the price of admission just makes it that much better.

Kimi Part Deux

One has to wonder if former Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen is just dumb or playing a clever game that the rest of us just don't get.

For 18 months now, ever since he was let go by Ferrari with almost two years of a $7 million U.S. a season contract still in effect, Raikkonen has been outspoken with his insistence that he had no desire to hitch his wagon back on to the F-1 circus.

In fact as recently as two weeks ago, he was telling anybody who would listen that he loved being part of the World Rally Championship.

But there he was on Tuesday leaking news to Autosport Magazine that he had let French auto giant Renault know he was available to fill one of their F-1 team's seats next season.

Was it that all of a sudden he realized his Ferrari paycheques were just weeks away from coming to a stop? Or was it that when he asked his Citroen WRC team to match the Ferrari deal he was laughed out of the paddock?

Whatever happened it looks as if Renault is indeed interested, with team principal Eric Boullier confirming negotiations are ongoing to have the Finn in a seat alongside Robert Kubica in 2011.

"It is true that the summer has passed and we have had more and more requests -- and the guy you mentioned (Raikkonen) is on the radar now," Boullier told Autosport.

Pit stops

If I were any of the 12 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship drivers, I'd be more worried about some of the loose canons who didn't make the final cut when the post-season begins at New Hampshire on Sunday. Guys such as Joe Logano, Brad Keselowski and Juan Pablo Montoya can do a lot of damage from the outside looking in ... Surprised to see that Bill Jenkins didn't hire Patrick Carpentier to drive the No. 26 Ford at Loudon; he's a former pole winner at the one-mile flat oval.


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