Questions For Randy

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This weekend, I will be going to Barber Motorsports Park for the third year in a row. I went to a pre-season test there in spring of 2009, then went last year for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. Some may recall me writing about one of my most frustrating moments in my short blogging career.

To refresh your memory, during last year’s race weekend at Barber, I was in the media center between the two IZOD IndyCar practice sessions on Friday. Suddenly, I noticed everyone crowding around one section of the room. Being semi-curious, I went over to see what all of the commotion was about. Randy Bernard, who was only about five weeks into his new job as CEO, was giving an impromptu press conference.

All of the professionals were firing eloquent sounding questions his way. I stood there and listened intently to everything he was saying. One by one, the reporters walked away, until there were only about two of them left…and me. Without warning Randy Bernard turned to me, shook my hand and asked what I would like to know about. I froze. I think I uttered some nonsensical babble along the lines of “Oh, I’m just a blogger”. Noticing my awkwardness, he nicely said “That’s OK" then repeated "What would you like to know?” I stood there for a second and realized I had nothing.

In a few weeks, I will mark the two-year anniversary of this site. In that time, that is the one single moment that I wish I had back. On Monday, I wrote about second chances. The Butler Bulldogs did little with their second chance Monday night, but this is a second chance that I would like to have. But what would I do with it if I got it?

I’ve said many times that I am not a journalist, nor do I pretend to be one. There are some IndyCar bloggers who could be considered journalists, but I’m not one of them. I’m a fan – pure and simple. This is not a news site. Posting three times a week doesn’t exactly make for  “Breaking News”. I’ve never done an interview with a driver. I have had many conversations with them and other racing personalities, but I only use those conversations as a basis to form my opinions. But I enjoy writing those opinions and throwing them out there.

If I do have another chance meeting with Mr. Bernard this weekend, I’m still not sure what I would ask or say – other than to tell him I think he is doing a great job. I probably wouldn’t even do that, fearing I would come across as a suck-up. I could ask him about the double-file re-starts, but Dave Despain did that on Wind Tunnel the other night.

It’s not really in my personality makeup to come up with hard-hitting questions for someone like Randy Bernard. But if I am given the chance to ask him something again, this time I don’t want to feel like Michael Corleone in  The Godfather coming out of the restaurant bathroom with just his…well, you know. Then I got an idea. I thought I would throw it out in a post to my dozen or so readers and ask them what they would like to know.

So for the next couple of days, post to me in the comment section what you would like for me to ask Randy. I promise, if I get in front of him – I’ll take the list and read as many as I can before he gets tired and walks away. All I ask is to keep it relevant. I don’t really care if he wears boxers or briefs. I’m not interested in what kind of tree he would want to be. Nor do I want to hear about his views on global warming. I am interested in learning how he plans to pursue his long-term goals for the IZOD IndyCar Series and things along those lines.

I don’t always think quickly on my feet. I do OK when I can sit at a keyboard and pound out some thoughts with the aid of a backspace key – but I always need a little time to digest things. If I were to take that amount of time with Randy Bernard, he would be gone before my first question.

So here’s a chance to help me out and possibly get an answer to a question that has been smoldering inside of you for months. I do have a recorder, so I pledge that I will post his responses in their entirety, if I get the chance at all.

On another note…who is going to Barber? I’ve gotten e-mails from a couple of people already that I will try to meet up with. Last year, I got to meet “Bent Wickerbill” down there and we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I will be at Barber all day Friday and Sunday, but I will not be there on Saturday. If you are going to be there, please send me an e-mail at geophillips14@gmail.com. I’d like to meet up, if possible. Based on my experience last year, it’s a lot easier to try and get together Friday than Sunday.

Anyway, start thinking about your questions and post them here. I’ll do my best to get them answered. Like last year, I’ll be posting throughout the day Friday and Sunday, with pictures, so check back often.

Update: I have now been contacted by the INDYCAR office and have been granted a meeting with Mr. Bernard for Sunday morning. I’ll use a word I rarely use – WOW!  Get those questions ready.

George Phillips

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32 Responses to “Questions For Randy”

  1. Given that he’s created separate oval and non-oval championships, I imagine the intention is to keep the number of oval and non-oval races (roughly) equal. However, with fewer and fewer ovals being available to Indy Car (i.e. Chicago – unless the new rumors are true), coupled with new street courses coming online all the time, how is he going to ensure that balance? Losing Japan would be understandable this year. And, even as an oval fan, going back to Surfer’s Paradise is okay by me. But Houston, Baltimore, maybe even reviving Cleveland… Where to we find replacement ovals?

  2. Simon Garfunkel Says:

    George-Ask RB about the timing & scoring issues on the website. Also see about getting practices streamed live. Good luck and have fun this weekend.

  3. Long term health and success of the series: play like it’s a company and I’m a potential investor. Give me a couple key indicators that I can look at and make a good judgement that Indycar is improving. Is it car count? Cost per team? Paid headcount at races? TV ratings? Merchandise sold? The number of American drivers? The number of different teams who won at least one race in a season?

    When he goes to the board or to any investor, you know he’s got a powerpoint presentation where he’s got his metrics, and he’s got a handful of bullet points that are his key goals, and periodically he has to go back and address those goals: which are met, which are well on the way to being achieved, and which need more work. I’d like to know what those goals are.

  4. Travis R Says:

    I’m going to throw something from way out in left field here:

    There has been a lot of advancements in the electric car arena lately. New production cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf, electric racing series being formed, etc. There is also a noticeable shift regarding sustainability, even in F1. Where does Randy see INDYCAR fitting into the “green scheme” of things? Could we at least see an electric racing series as a support series for INDYCAR (racing at the same venue on the same weekend), or perhaps push for sustainability in INDYCAR by decreasing the race fuel amounts over the course of several years, basically pushing the teams and manufacturers to increase the efficiency of the racing?

    Also, here’s an idea I’ve wanted to write him with:

    Has he considered instead of pulling in celebrities at huge expense to act as grand marshalls, green flag-wavers, and pace car drivers at INDYCAR events, to instead offer these opportunities as a fan contest of some sort? i.e. an ordinary Joe (preferably a kid or maybe a veteran) can win an all-expenses paid trip for a familiy of 4 to an INDYCAR race weekend, where they’ll get a chance to go in the garages, wave the green flag, etc. It would be a great way to build fans for life, and probably be cheaper than paying/begging some uninterested celebrity that, when interviewed, usually says something to the effect of “yeah, this is my first INDYCAR race…” Imagine being a 12 year old kid who gets to yell “Drivers, start your engines!” Or, maybe a high school choir that sings the National Anthem at the Indy 500. They would be hooked for life.

    Sorry, those are kind of windy questions, so they might not work well.

    • Jim in Wilmington Says:

      Actually the series has a rich history of being green. Back in the thirties, Eddie Rickenbacker began restricting the amount of fuel (gasoline in those days) that could be used by each car in the race, culminating in 1935 when each car was only alloted 35.5 gallons (that’s over 14 mpg which would be phenomenal for any race car these days). In the late seventies (Ibelieve it was ’78) the amount of methanol was restricted to the point that the Offy engine was no longer competitive (It could make > 1,200 HP but the mileage was dismal). Finally, IndyCar was the first and so far the only major racing series to switch to 100% ethanol in ’06 (I think). Of course, NASCAR thinks they invented being green when they switched to E-15. Anyway, the question should be couched in terms of building on this rich tradition.

      Jim

  5. Wish I was going to Barber, but simply can’t logistically this year. Had a great time at the “gorgeous facility” last year. My question is how can we solve long term viewership issues due to scheduling? Case in point, this year the Barber Race is a 3PM EDT start on Versus, which already will be less exposure, plus it conflicts with the final round of the Masters. A noon start might help. The SE will be a huge Masters viewing audience, and that area primed for growth will miss it. At least the taxi cabs race on Saturday night which will help.

    • SkipinSC Says:

      An excellent point. I reserve the right to DVR Barber IF the Masters is exciting. Sorry, but if Tiger or Phil are playing through and out of Amen Corner on Sunday afternoon in contention, watching a road course race would have to take a back seat, at least in the short term.

      Another thing that dovetails with that somewhat is this: What steps is he taking to attempt not to schedule directly oppostie NASCAR? I know it is not always possible, particularly on road/street circuits, but even running a race mid-late afternoon when NASCAR is early (along the lines of the NFL “doubleheader,” ) would be preferrable, and might draw some crossover fans.

      ANYTIME NASCAR is running on Saturday night, INDYCAR should be running on Sunday afternoon. (And the reverse would be good too, particularly on the “summer” ovals.)

  6. Jason McVeigh Says:

    What has been the most frustrating thing about his job over the past year and ewhat has been the most rewarding thing about it?

  7. Does he envision a time where the series will get back to more ovals than road/street courses say a 60/40 split? The majority of American fans seem to want this as evident by some of the polls you have ran on the topic and other polls I have seen from other bloggers.

    Thanks for asking for input!

  8. I want to know about standing starts on road/street courses and about the 2012 equipment and what he thinks will be the ability of the owners/teams to fund a well stocked car(s). As for the health of the series, I think we can all see that it is getting better every day, so that would be a wasted question. Of course, in my opinion.

  9. What were the factors in choosing Donald Trump as the Centenial pace car driver in leiu of a past champion or anyone else associated with the sport?

    • Getting the pace car driver is probably an IMS function, not something Randy would be involved in.

      • Wow. Thanks Mark Wick for putting me back in check. I didn’t know that Randy Bernard only has opinions on INDYCAR questions and not questions about IMS. I figured that since he has one heck of a background in promotions that he could offer some insight. It is the series biggest race of the year for INDYCAR. George is very fortunate to have someone like you screen all his comments and possible questions and pick out the ones that can easly be answered by a person like yourself and not be wasted on Randy.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    I’m curious as well about the possibilities (or lack thereof) for new oval events. I’m also curious if the league or Dallara will be assisting teams in the purchase of the 2012 cars, finding them good financing plans and the like.

    It’s great to hear that Bernard will be taking the time to meet with you, George. It’s great to have a leader who can both listen profusely and act decisively.

  11. Your a columnist and a good one. You are not a reporter, nothing wrong with that at all.

    Will there be standing starts for 2012 street/road courses?

    If Indy is worth more points, why isn’t Long Beach worth more-the road corse equivalent?

    Will there be any changes at Barber to widen the track at places in order to promote more passing? (Maybe hold off till next year on this one just in case it isn’t an issue. )

  12. GP, sitting down with Randy is a great experience because even though he has a million things going on at once, when you have his time you have his complete attention.

    Here’s something you could pick his brain about. When he sits down to meet with new entities that are considering joining the Series (whether they are teams, drivers, sponsors, manufacturers, or someone else), what does he bring to the table that they don’t already know? Racing across all forms is a very tight knit (dare I say incestuous?) community where information spreads quickly. What can he tell them or bring to light with them that they don’t already know before meeting with him?

  13. The Lapper Says:

    Any chance that Nashville will ever return to the schedule?

  14. Is anything in the works for people who can not attend practice sessions to view online? Also with the start time moving up an hour how come we can’t enter the grounds an hour earlier…can never be at the track on race day long enough!

  15. Randy Holbrook Says:

    I don’t really have a question – more of a comment. I would just like to commend Mr. Bernard on the job he has done and ask that he keep the integrity of the racing as pure as possible. I know there is a need for “thinking outside the box” to try and attract a bigger fan base. But please tread very carefully in this area. Please do not introduce gimmicks (Lucky Dog, Green-White-Checker, artificially wet tracks, etc.) in order to manufacture close finishes. I think we have the best actual racing series in the world. The racing is not the problem in my opinion. The problem is not enough exposure of the product. If Mr. Bernard could just get the product as is to television viewers I think the series will be just fine. Just please don’t sell out integrity in an attempt to attract the ADD crowd.

  16. How many races will be on the 2012 schedule? And down the road, how many races maximum does he think Indycar should eventually race in a year?

    Also–Indycar is a good investment for sponsors compared to Nascar (although yeah, Nascar has a much bigger audience.) With Firestone upping their price and with the new car coming in, will Indycar be able to keep the costs down to encourage more sponsors…teams…and drivers?

  17. Jerrycruz Says:

    Since I’m an oval fan i would like to know if for next year or 2013 we can have 20 races consisting in 10 ovals (adding Michigan, Chicagoland and Fontana) but also adding Cleveland which was always the best airport/road course race…ever! It does not matter that Mid-Ohio is still on the schedule…people will show to both…thanks George for asking for input and representing all the fans!!!

  18. If you could, please ask Randy Bernard if he realizes most Indycar fans are fed up with ABC’s coverage of the series and if he intends to re-up with them in the next television contract, or if he is leaning toward shopping the 500 and the series around. I’ve read your blog for over a year, and you’ve always been one of the more eloquent and professional sounding bloggers in the Indycar media realm. I’m sure you’ll do awesome!

  19. Ah, so many questions… here are the ones that could be considered “worthwhile”…

    – What are your plans for getting Indycar drivers back into the main media (i.e. commercials on ESPN, articles on websites like CBS Sports or Yahoo!, etc.) so that people other than hardcore Indycar fans know who Simona and Will Power are?

    – Are you attempting to get the IICS back to Michigan and Phoenix or does the IICS no longer see enough value in these traditional venues?

    – Since leaving all of ISC’s tracks last year (which I believe was a healthy move, btw), has any progress been made with ISC or has ISC and the IICS parted ways?

    Hope these Q’s help, George. You could mention how we all think RB’s doing a great job (case in point, taking time out of his day to talk to you). In the most non-divisive way possible, mention to him to be wary of TG!

  20. Hey- a few thoughts I have for questions I would like to know of the CEO of the Indy:
    –How will he keep the race and surrounding events moving forward for a contemporary generation while preserving the tradition that brings so many back year after year?
    — what has been your biggest hurdle managing such an even as the Indy?

  21. I have photographed races at MIS and Cleveland and believe both are great courses which allow fans to see the whole track from almost any, if not all seats. Racing was great at both. What are the chances of getting both back on the schedule?
    And here is one really off the wall. When the women are in the cars, what part of the car are they sitting in?

  22. Savage Henry Says:

    Pertinent on the Barber weekend… Randy has said that the most important thing for the series is to put on a good show and have the best drivers and the highest quality racing. However, all of the road courses on the schedule are on tracks that best suited for motorcycle and/or sports car racing (Barber, Mid-Ohio, and Infineon). These tracks are considered to be too short and too narrow to host an entertaining INDYCAR race. One of the drivers said after the 2009 open test that an INDYCAR could not pass an Indy Lights car at Barber. While there was some passing in last year’s race, it was mostly a parade and the outcome was significantly influenced by the fact that Marco couldn’t pass a much slower car.

    What are the plans to schedule some road courses that are suited to a top-level open-wheel racing series (Road America, please!). If half of the schedule is going to be road and street courses, it is important that they choose venues that enable the best possible racing.

  23. Christopher Meyer Says:

    With speculation that the MotoGP race will be leaving Indianapolis in 2013 (heading down to the new Houston track) is IndyCar interested in adding a September race on the road course at IMS? —- of course contingent on the Hulman-George family being open to the idea

  24. Christopher Meyer Says:

    Is Indycar working on / pushing the development of an Indianapolis 500 movie. I have heard rumblings about a feature film based on the Indianapolis 500 and would love to see it come to fruition. The opening of the LA satellite office seems like it could push this initiative along. It also could be a great method of exposing a large audience to the brand.

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