IRL boss Bernard shouldn't worry about reports

Reports say a group of IRL team owners are trying to buy the series to oust president and CEO Randy...

Reports say a group of IRL team owners are trying to buy the series to oust president and CEO Randy Bernard. (QMI files)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:51 AM ET

Something smells funny about the Sports Business Journal story that Tony George is partnering up with team owners Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Michael Andretti to buy the IZOD IndyCar Series and fire current CEO Randy Bernard.

First off, this rumour has been making the rounds in the IndyCar paddock for months.

Every time it appears, all of the principals hurry to the nearest microphone to deny their involvement in such a coup.

This time, it is much the same with Penske and Andretti publicly denying they are part of any scheme to take over the North American open wheel series.

George even told the writer that the story was “inaccurate.”

Heck, Jeff Belskus, president and CEO of Hulman & Company — which owns IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — has outright denied that the series is for sale.

“The IZOD IndyCar Series is not for sale, and representatives from Hulman & Company and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation have not received or considered any offers to purchase the series,” Belskus said in a statement issued by the company. “Further, executive management from both Hulman & Company and IMSC maintain continuous and open dialogue with INDYCAR team owners about numerous issues related to the IZOD IndyCar Series, and no INDYCAR team owner formally or informally approached either organization about purchasing the IZOD IndyCar Series.”

Yet the story that Bernard will be fired and his predecessor George will be put back in charge keeps getting traction.

Certainly there are people in IndyCar, like George, Ganassi and Kalkhoven, who think they know more than Bernard about how to run a racing series.

Remember these are three of the main combatants in the ruinous uncivil war that brought open wheel racing to its knees over the past 15 years.

Now don’t get me wrong, Bernard is hardly perfect in all of this mess.

This is the guy who announced his much-ballyhooed 2013 racing calendar late on a Sunday night, on a television channel hardly anyone watches.

But in his two-plus years in office, Bernard has made headway in getting IndyCar back into the motorsports conversation on this continent.

The Indianapolis 500 this season was one of the most competitive and compelling in ages — a throwback to that days of A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Mario Andretti.

And this year produced a genuine made-in-America IndyCar champion in Ryan Hunter-Reay in the final race of the season.

There is, admittedly, plenty of work to be done. Television ratings for IndyCar have been in the toilet for eons, trailing all three of NASCAR’s premier series.

And its one real cross-over star — Danica Patrick — fled IndyCar to race in NASCAR this season.

All of this doesn’t get fixed, however, by IndyCar team owners, once again, forming a firing squad in a circle.

FINISH LINES

Defending race champion Jenson Button will have a five-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka after replacing the gearbox in his McLaren Mercedes this week ... NASCAR announced Tuesday in Phoenix that the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series will make its inaugural race in the United States on March 1 next season as part of the Subway Fresh Fit NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend. Wonder how long before the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series gets he same treatment, say, at Michigan International Speedway ... The FIA has confirmed that the 2013 F-1 Canadian Grand Prix will be run June 9 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve ... Quicken Loans will serve as primary sponsor on Ryan Newman’s No. 39 Stewart Haas Racing Chevrolet for 18 Sprint Cup races next season ... Mercedes DTM driver Gary Paffett said this week he is “the overwhelming favourite” for the European sports car championship, even though Canada’s Bruno Spengler has moved to within three points of the lead after finishing sixth at Valencia on Sunday.

DEAN’S RANT

There were a lot of questions being asked about Dover International Speedway being one of the 10 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Championship races after Sunday’s AAA 400.

None of those questions had anything to do with the facility itself — it is a great race track that produces good racing.

The questions concerned the swaths of empty seats disguised as race fans.

Now some have said that the place was at less than half capacity, but in fact there were some 90,000 at the 140,000-seat track.

If an IndyCar race drew that kind of crowd at any oval other than at the Indy 500, there would have been big parties thrown at 16th and Georgetown.

But nonetheless, NASCAR should reassess having a Chase race at Dover if it can’t at least come close to selling the place out.

Maybe the bosses at the Octane group in Montreal, who keep pleading for a Sprint Cup race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, should try to buy Dover — it has been rumoured to be for sale — and move one of the races to Canada.

In reality, that would be the only way to get a treasured Cup race because NASCAR has said time and again there won’t be any dates added to an already unwieldy 36-race calendar.

GORDON STILL HASN’T FIGURED OUT TALLADEGA

One would think that after winning at Talladega Superspeedway six times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, a driver would have figured out the best way to get there a seventh time.

But in the case of Jeff Gordon and the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team that is definitely not the case.

Asked this week what his strategy would be on Sunday at the 2.66-mile oval, Gordon said he didn’t have one.

“There is no set strategy that works best,” he said. “If there was, we all would be doing it.

“Drafting can be fun and the finish is usually exciting, but you don’t know when, where or if you’re going to be caught up in the ‘big one.’”

“I’ve raced up front and been caught up in a wreck. I’ve also been involved while running in the middle of the pack and also while running what I thought was a conservative distance back of the main pack.

“But I’ve also won using each of those strategies.

“You may have to use each at some point during the race. You just need to be willing to change and adjust if a different plan will put you in a better position to win.”

And it’s not because Gordon doesn’t know what he is doing, with his six wins he has three poles, 14 top-fives and 18 top-10s in 39 starts and led for 832 laps at the big oval.

SCHUMACHER REMAINS HOPEFUL OF A WIN IN JAPAN

Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher insists he is fired up, hoping to get a win this Formula One season at Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix in spite of the news that he will be replaced at Mercedes next season by Lewis Hamilton.

Schumacher will have to by super good to make it happen as he faces a ten-spot penalty for crashing into Jean Eric Vergne at Singapore.

“My motivation is completely intact after the news last week, especially because Suzuka is one of the season’s highlights for me,” Schumacher said. “Although my chances are of course very limited because of my grid penalty ... I’ve always approached these things as a challenge.”


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