Some Light At The End Of The Tunnel
For the first time in several weeks, I feel a positive vibe coming out of 16th and Georgetown. A couple of weeks ago, I watched the live stream of the press conference that announced that Mark Miles would replace Jeff Belskus as CEO of Hulman & Company and that Belskus would remain as President of IMS as well as Interim CEO of IndyCar. The original speculation was that Belskus would eventually drop the “interim” tag and remain as Randy Bernard’s permanent successor at IndyCar.
My initial impression watching the press conference was that I was very impressed with Mark Miles. I only knew a few facts about Mark Miles prior to the press conference – mostly what I had learned while researching a post I had written about some of the possible candidates to succeed Randy Bernard. What I had read was that Miles had a successful fifteen-year run as head of the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals). I learned that Miles did for the ATP what Randy Bernard did for Professional Bull Riding. I also found out that Mark Miles headed up the 2012 Host Super Bowl Committee in Indianapolis as well as the Pan Am games in 1987. His bio also revealed that he is currently President and CEO of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership, Inc., a non-profit, regional alliance of corporate CEOs and university presidents focused on long-term growth and economic development throughout the Central Indiana region.
All of this is fine and good, but those credentials sound about equal to Randy Bernard – the man they had just fired. But when he was introduced as head of Hulman & Company and I heard the man speak, I got excited – mainly because he was excited. Seeing the man on-screen revealed what his biography had not. What we learned that day was that Mark Miles is a native Hoosier that grew up listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the radio. He has been a fan of this race for quite a long time. He spoke of watching the race on television from Paris, while there for the French Open – a ritual he always made happen, no matter how busy he was.
Mark Miles made it clear that he would be very hands-on with IndyCar, while in his position of CEO of Hulman & Company – the parent company to IMS and IndyCar. He spoke of his success in growing the ATP and the similarities of both sports. He let it be known that he already had several ideas on things to do to grow our sport.
Then Jeff Belskus was introduced to make a few remarks on his dual role with IMS and IndyCar. Suddenly, a lively press-conference turned dull and stale. We heard the same tired old rhetoric we had been hearing as the air was let out of the balloon. About the only interesting part was when Robin Miller asked Belskus what he brought to the table that Randy Bernard didn’t. Belskus squirmed as he first refused to answer the question and then carefully danced around it. Then it went back to the same old drone we all grew accustomed to hearing during the Tony George era.
The differences between the two men could not have been more pronounced. Through my monitor, Mark Miles came across as someone who was engaging, enthusiastic, confident and most of all – genuine and forthcoming. Jeff Belskus on the other hand, came off as defensive, slightly arrogant and someone who had something to hide. I could be completely wrong on my assessment of Belskus, since I have never met the man. I’m only going on my perception of how he came off that day.
What endeared Randy Bernard to the fans was his openness and transparency. For the first time, we fans had the sense that someone was doing something for us instead of whatever the owners wanted. Of course, that stance ultimately cost him his job but it was refreshing for us just the same. I got the same feeling from Mark Miles. He gave me the impression he would listen to the fans and that he recognized that without us, there would be no series. I found myself thinking that Mark Miles was the one that should be directly leading IndyCar, not Jeff Belskus. But his comments of being more hands-on with IndyCar were encouraging nonetheless.
Then came an article from our friends at the Indianapolis Business Journal. I say “friends” facetiously because of the irresponsible way they broke the Randy Bernard firing. Still, they were ultimately right regardless of the way they jumped the gun. The story essentially said Mark Miles was not inclined to leave Belskus as CEO of IndyCar. His reasoning was that running both IMS and IndyCar is too big a challenge for any one person and that it is his intention for Belskus to eventually return to his duties of running IMS when a permanent IndyCar CEO is hired.
After watching the press conference and listening to Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee sing the praises of Mark Miles on Trackside last Thursday night, I really think that he would be the perfect person to run IndyCar on a full-time basis. I’m sure there is more prestige, money and power in being the CEO of Hulman & Company, but it would certainly be nice to think about. But Curt and Kevin brought up a scenario that I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago that makes sense – let Mark Miles hire Doug Boles to run IndyCar and report directly to Miles. A Mark Miles-Doug Boles combination could be just the shot in the arm our series needs.