The Rumor Mill Has Been Running Rampant

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One thing that I forgot to mention about Twitter the other day – it isn’t always correct. One must develop a sense of filtering if one is to follow the news on Twitter. I’ve been on Twitter for about four years now (@Oilpressureblog). In that time, Twitter was the first place that I learned (through @curtcavin) that Helio had been acquitted of his tax troubles. It was where I first learned that Dallara had supplanted Lola, Swift, DeltaWing and BAT as the “new chassis”. It was also on Twitter that I first saw it confirmed that Randy Bernard had been fired as IndyCar CEO.

Unfortunately, there have been a few rumors that have made their way into the Twittersphere and run rampant before either being snuffed out or dying a natural death of their own. One of those rumors raised its ugly head on Monday night, when everyone was believing that Brian Barnhart was about to be named as the next CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series. These tweets weren’t coming from fellow bloggers or fans. They were from reputable news reporters whose job it is to follow the series.

I first saw it from ESPN’s John Oreovicz (@IndyOreo) who tweeted “Hearing rumblings that Brian Barnhart will be named #INDYCAR CEO.” Soon afterward, Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press (@JennaFryer) chimed in with “Maybe I’m the dumbest person ever, but I find the Barnhart talk 100 percent implausible because if #IndyCar thought fans were pissed over the RB debacle, I suspect that will seem calm compared to Barnhart being put in charge”. Jenna then became the voice of reason with this tweet: “What I could see happening: BB could be promoted or shaped into like a Mike Helton or Robin Pemberton role. But I’d be stunned at CEO.”

By Tuesday afternoon, it was obvious that this was more than an annoying little rumor, and the folks at IMS felt the need to get in front of it and squash it – unlike what they did with the Randy Bernard rumors last fall. Doug Boles released a statement yesterday afternoon saying “Brian continues to be an executive member of INDYCAR and his understanding of our sport continues to provide our organization with valuable input, however, Brian’s future role with INDYCAR will not be as CEO of the organization.”

Well, that pretty well put an end to that, I guess. Last week, we heard that Terry Angstadt and John Lopes had been offered the jobs of IndyCar CEO and CFO, respectfully. This week, it was Brian Barnhart. Who might it be next week? One of the more humorous tweets from Monday night proclaimed that Brian Barnhart was in line to be the next Pope. I’m not sure which job would be more likely for Barnhart, but I think we are just as likely to see Barnhart wearing a funny hat as we are running the series.

Brian Barnhart still has a lot of supporters throughout the series, but not so much within the fan base. I’ve always said that I consider him to be a good and decent man who is extremely competent in a lot of areas. He is very knowledgeable about cars, engines and certain points of competition. However, he showed himself to be out of his league when it came to officiating; and the manner in which he dictated starts and restarts was comical at best. I also don’t think that Brian Barnhart has any sort of qualifications in his background that would come close to qualifying him for such a role.

But that didn’t stop the rumor mill from grinding away on Twitter Monday night and partially through Tuesday. Sometimes you wonder where these things start. John Oreovicz is not the kind to start something just to watch it spread. If he said he heard rumblings, I can promise you that he heard rumblings – very credible rumblings. Jenna Fryer obviously heard the same things, otherwise she wouldn’t damage her credibility as a journalist by even acknowledging frivolous rumors like these – even on Twitter.

One thing is for certain – it got some February buzz going. I’m not sure that this is the sort of buzz that is desired, but mere gossip is better than no buzz at all. There have been some more driver signings in the last couple of days. James Jakes signed for the second car at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing last week, while EJ Viso is getting the fourth car at Andretti Autosport. In a surprise move – Sebastian Saavedra signed on for the second car at Dragon, ending almost all speculation that Katherine Legge would return there. Oh, and by the way – Ryan Briscoe is still without a ride.

But none of these things were on the minds of IndyCar fans on Monday night. Instead, it was the gnashing of teeth over the possibility of Brian Barnhart running the series. As Curt Cavin explained last night on Trackside, everyone should have known better because with all of the baggage that Barnhart brings – there is no way whatsoever that Brian Barnhart would have been given the job, even if he did possess every qualification for the job (which he doesn’t). The fan backlash would be too great.

So, while I am still a big advocate for Twitter – proceed at your own risk. As with everything, some common sense must come into play at some point.

George Phillips

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11 Responses to “The Rumor Mill Has Been Running Rampant”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    I never heard the rumor, but to be honest, there is little that comes from that “management” group that surprises me ….

  2. The rumor got a lot of attention because its very believable that this could happen. In fact, he may be already doing this job in fact if not in title.

  3. History has shown that stranger things have happened. Glad that Indycar got out in front of this right away before the blogsphere went into a grand mal seizure. They’re learning.

  4. St. Pete can’t get here soon enough!

  5. billytheskink Says:

    Never believed the rumor.
    We won’t know who the new IndyCar CEO is until we see white smoke rising from 16th and Georgetown (and can confirm that it wasn’t from Scott Dixon’s motor).

  6. The idea was floated on trackside that I could see splausible. Someone very high up planted this rumor with a specific subordinate to see if the info got leaked and knowing who had that info, a case could be made for dismissal. The performer Adele did this to clean out the chatterbugs in her PR staff and given how leaky the IMS information chain has been, not a bad idea here.

  7. Rumors need two things to spread: a leaker inside the organization with an agenda, and a “useful idiot” in the media willing to run their mouth before they should in order to appear smarter than they are. As is made clear by this, the Tony George and Randy Bernard fiasco’s, IndyCar has an ample supply of both.

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