My Thoughts On The Palace Revolt
Last week, I was probably as out of touch with the outside world as I’ve ever been. That should be understandable, since it was my honeymoon. Since this is a racing site and not a travel site, I will not bore everyone with all of the details. But I will use a word that I rarely use to describe our trip – fabulous! It’s good to be back on this site, but I’d be lying if I said I’m glad to be back in the real world. I could get used to the life of a beach bum – so long as someone would support me financially.
There was one racing aspect of our trip, that I’ll share here on Friday – but I did want to touch on the one bit of news I followed fairly closely while tucked away in my cocoon. That is the story involving Randy Bernard coming under fire by some owners. By now, this is old news and I don’t think I’ll add anything to what has already been said – but this has been on my mind, so I’ll take this opportunity to rant.
In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I’ll admit that I am a huge fan of Randy Bernard. I’ve met him and interviewed him as well as had chance brushes with him at the Speedway. In all those times, I’ve found him to be engaging, genuine and extremely likeable. His great personality traits aside, I also think he has done a world of good for the IZOD IndyCar Series. When you look at the list of forgettable leaders at CART and Champ Car over the years and the total lack of leadership from the previous IRL regime – I think that Randy Bernard has been a Godsend for our sport.
Does that mean that I consider Randy Bernard to be infallible? Far from it. Although Mr. Bernard has had far more hits than misses, he hasn’t connected on every idea. But, that’s what creative people in his position do. They come up with ideas, implement them and see how they work. If they don’t work, try something else.
From what I can tell, the teams running the Chevy powerplant think that INDYCAR and Randy Bernard in particular did their side dirty when they allowed Honda to make changes to their single turbocharger prior to the Indianapolis 500. I am not a gearhead and know nothing about turbochargers, so I won’t even try to explain what changes were made. But I’m not too ignorant that I can’t tell that the Chevy teams were peeved about it so much that they demanded a hearing to determine the fairness of such a change. When that hearing didn’t go their way, they appealed – this time, with a retired Indiana Supreme Court judge hearing the case. When he came up with the same result – obviously some Chevrolet owners decided to not stop there. Chevy had already won the first four races and the first four poles of the season, and they apparently felt that anything that broke that string was obviously un-American (no pun intended).
Based on what I hear and read, the alleged primary instigator in all of this is Panther Racing owner John Barnes. But Barnes has allies in trying to lead the palace revolt. Kevin Kalkhoven and Michael Andretti are apparently none too happy, either.
As with most things in racing, I think there is more to this than being upset over “turbogate” or the increased cost of running the DW12. Remember, John Barnes is one of the holdover owners from the old IRL days along with AJ Foyt and those at Dreyer & Reinbold. John Barnes has made his feelings about the direction the series has taken very clear. He got in when Tony George and his cronies were running things. John Barnes has his allegiance squarely with the ousted regime of Tony George, and not Randy Bernard. Now that Randy Bernard has made it clear that he is taking the series in a much-needed new direction, you can expect some of the old holdovers that were trained to hate the very existence of CART & Champ Car to resent that their series has taken on the same look of the very series that they despised.
Despite a flawed business model, CART had a lot of good things going in its day. What ended up being fatal to their existence was the fact that the team owners called all the shots, while the commissioner was just a puppet put in place for everyone to bully. How ironic that one of the old-guard IRL owners would pull a trick out of the old CART playbook and think he can create an uprising to get the CEO of INDYCAR fired. The difference here is that the owners don’t have a say in who leads this series. That is ultimately up to the board at Hulman & Co., who were the ones that hired Randy Bernard. Seeing how he has managed the bottom line, I would think the board is very pleased with his performance – as well they should be.
Now comes word that the owners are trying to reject the aero kits yet again. Is this over a concern over holding down costs, or an attempt to further embarrass Randy Bernard? Only the car owners know for sure, but it is certainly poor timing at best and extremely petty at the worst.
So if this sounds like I’m in complete agreement with Randy Bernard on this – well, you’re almost right. In my opinion, Randy Bernard handled this situation very poorly. This was an in-house matter that should have stayed in-house. When he tweeted that one of the owners was trying to get him fired, it exemplified everything that I think is wrong about social media. I can’t get into Facebook, but I love Twitter (@Oilpressureblog); but I know to be very careful and guarded on there. Even then, I’ve gotten my head torn off a time or two when I opined about things that weren’t considered politically correct. Such things are better left un-tweeted.
Such was the case with Randy Bernard’s tweet. It doesn’t matter that what he said was more than likely the truth. It never should have gone public. It reminded me of my ex-wife who felt compelled to share all of our family business with neighbors or even perfect strangers on an airplane. Such things need to be discussed and settled behind closed doors – not for the world to witness and gawk over. Plus, he set up a double-standard when he fined John Barnes $25,000 for something he tweeted regarding “turbogate” because it was considered detrimental for the league.
For what it’s worth (not much), my allegiance is squarely with Randy Bernard on this and any other matter. If John Barnes doesn’t like the way things are run, no one is forcing him to run in the series. But I find it difficult to justify Randy Bernard’s use of Twitter in this manner.
That’s my very late two cents on this matter. Please check back Friday, when I’ll post about my visit to St. Petersburg last week.