What Happened To Mark Miles’s Present?
Most IndyCar fans have already taken note that there was one item missing from under our tree this season. In early November, while describing his ideas for revamping qualifying procedures for this year’s Indianapolis 500 – Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles dropped a little nugget to tease us with by saying that the series might be receiving a “Christmas Present” in the form of a new title sponsor. With the recent departure of IZOD, most of us had expected the series to run in 2014 (or longer) with no title sponsor. When Miles dropped that in our laps, we all (myself included) began wild speculation as to who it might be.
So here we are in mid-January. Christmas came and went and I’ve heard not even a whisper about a title sponsor since Miles mentioned it off the cuff in early November. Granted, I unplugged myself from most IndyCar news for a couple of days surrounding Christmas, so I may have missed an announcement – but I doubt it. It’s now quite apparent that whatever Miles thought was going to happen, did not – or at least not yet.
This is the type of thing that Randy Bernard’s detractors would have had a field-day with. Randy was very transparent. He would sometimes toss ideas out into the air, just to see what the reaction of the fan base would be. When he floated the trial-balloon for a rule similar to NASCAR’s “Lucky Dog”; it was met with such opposition that he knew not to bring that up anymore. There were those that said he was too quick to shoot off his mouth or that he led by the seat of his pants, without thinking things through.
I saw it differently. I considered Randy Bernard to be an idea guy that listened to the fans, valued their opinions and trusted their instincts.
But, if Randy Bernard was accused of speaking without thinking – what was it that Mark Miles did in early November?
I walk a thin line here. During Randy Bernard’s tenure, I was accused more than once of being a Randy Bernard apologist. It’s no secret that I was a huge fan of Randy Bernard’s. I considered him the most effective leader of American Open-Wheel Racing since Tony Hulman. But I also realize that Randy is gone, and he’s not coming back. There is no future in pining for his return. All we can do is either support the current regime and hold them accountable when they falter or we can sit back and hope they fail. I’m not sure there is any purpose in that. After all, I’m assuming we all want the same thing – for IndyCar to grow and prosper.
Mark Miles and his cronies are far smarter than I am when it comes to running a property such as IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I fully believe that. But I also believe that no one is infallible. Randy Bernard certainly wasn’t. I cringed when he sent out the tweet that some owners were trying to get him fired. I am certain that if he had it to do over, he would have handled the situation completely differently. But, Randy was an open book. You knew exactly how he felt and what was going on in his mind.
By teasing us with the thought that we might have a title sponsor in place by Christmas, shows us that Mark Miles is not infallible either. Unless he was certain that he would have something tangible to announce by Christmas, he should have kept this little secret to himself. The deal either fell through completely or had some serious delays. Keep in mind, we are only seventy-five days away from the first practice at St. Petersburg. The end of the offseason is quickly approaching. Given all the new logos that would have to be designed and printed for every sign, car, shirt, and driver’s uniform – time is of the essence. I would think it’s safe to assume that it isn’t going to happen for 2014 – which is exactly what every fan expected before Miles got our hopes up in November.
This was a rookie mistake from a sports executive that is not a rookie. Keep in mind that Miles led the ATP Tour for fifteen years as well as leading the committee that brought Super Bowl XLVI to Indianapolis in 2012. This is a savvy sports executive with a lot of clout. One wonders how or why he was seduced into teasing fans with something he wasn’t one-hundred percent certain would happen.
Now he has egg on his face, and what’s left of the IndyCar fan base has another reason to think that nothing is being done behind the scenes. I want to believe in Mark Miles. I really do. What choice do I have? I understand that he is not as approachable as Randy Bernard. Few CEO’s are. But in a little more than a year, we’ve seen very little activity. Hiring Derrick Walker was a positive move, but besides that – can you tell me what positive moves have been made for the series? We are told that 2014 is a transition season and to expect big changes for 2015. I am holding out hope that is the case, because most of what I see is a regression back into the Tony George bunker mentality where the fans are nothing more than a necessary evil.
Even if this Christmas present materializes this week and there is a glorious announcement that some new company is stepping forward to lead our series into the Promised Land – our view of Mark Miles has been tainted. I will always question what is coming out of his mouth, after his amateurish move of dangling a carrot that never came to pass for IndyCar fans. His credibility will always be just a little bit in doubt.
When Randy Bernard was fired in late October of 2012; I said then that whoever was chosen to take his place, may be the most important hire in IndyCar’s short history. I still believe that. I am waiting for Mark Miles to show us he and his staff are the right people for the job.