Monday, April 19, 2010

Q&A With Randy Bernard

(Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)
16th And Georgetown: You’re obviously going to experience a lot over the next year or so, what are some of the events that you’re most looking forward to in 2010?

Randy Bernard: The experience I’m most looking forward to is the Indianapolis 500. I continue to hear what an unbelievable and life-changing type of an event it is. I think that it’s going to be even more exciting this year because we’ll have a minimum of 40 cars trying to qualify, which we haven’t seen in almost 15 years. It shows another wave in momentum as our sport continues to grow.

16th And Georgetown: You've mentioned in previous interviews that you plan on visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum quite often. Have you had the chance to do so? If so, what were some of the highlights?

Randy Bernard: I’ve been to the Museum three times and spent between five and a half, six hours over there. Actually, I’m planning on attending (Speedway historian) Donald Davidson’s class. Unfortunately, I had a big meeting and missed the first two-hour class. I think it would be very good for me to sit through the class and listen to what Donald has to say because I’ve learned so much from him in just the short time I’ve spent with him at the Museum. I think some of the things I take back from my visits to the Museum, as an outsider looking in at the tradition and culture, include how many legends we had from the ‘70s through the mid-90s, how big of a part of the sport they were and how of them all decided to retire within a 15-month time span. I think the other thing that lends itself very well over there is how open sourcing was back then, whether it was a diesel or a turbine or Mr. Penske’s Mercedes. That, to me, is so intriguing and shows what made the Indianapolis 500 so highly regarded to purists and enthusiasts for all of those years.

16th And Georgetown: After looking over the 2010 schedule, there are 17 races spread across 13 different start times, making it difficult for the casual fan to find the series every weekend. Obviously the television partners have a lot of say, but do you believe anything needs to be done to streamline the times a bit?

Randy Bernard: I think there’s a lot to be said for having a consistent time slot. I’m trying to get my arms around that right now. I understand that is a big part of our television partners’ decision. I think what is even more important is that we pick broadcast times that are not competing with other major events. For example, it was not ideal for the Barber weekend to be against Tiger Woods and the Masters. If we could have gone before or after, it would have been much better. I think there are a lot of things we have to take into consideration when picking our broadcast times.

16th And Georgetown: This season more than ever driver names have become quite prevalent on the rear wings, making it much easier for the casual fan to recognize who's in what car. Obviously it's expensive ad space that the teams would like to fill, but is there any chance that the Series would mandate the change?

Randy Bernard: I really like the drivers’ names on the rear wing. I asked 10 people to watch the Sao Paulo race that had never viewed an IZOD IndyCar Series race before. Four or five of them sent me an e-mail after the broadcast on what they liked and what they didn’t like. Ryan Hunter-Reay’s name came up several times and I asked why. They said it was because he was very easy to follow with his name on the rear wing. I thought that was very important feedback from people who had never watched a race before. We also received a lot of fan feedback in support of it.

After the Sao Paulo race, John Lewis (vice president of marketing and league development) sent an e-mail out to all of the team owners, telling them that we had great response from fans on it and encouraging them to utilize that space for driver recognition if it had not been sold to sponsors. I don’t think we’ll make it mandatory. We have to be very accommodating to the team owners as the rear wing is valuable real estate for sponsorship. I think that if there’s a way that drivers can negotiate that as part of their deal, I think it’s very advantageous to them, but I don’t think it something we are going to start dictating to team owners.

16th And Georgetown: In recent weeks details of the newly formed Chassis Committee have become clear, the members will decide upon a chassis and recommend it to yourself for the final decision. How likely is it that your final decision will be different than the committee's decision?

Randy Bernard: We released the final lineup of the ICONIC IndyCar Series Advisory Committee just a few days ago. I’ve said from day one that I’m way too naïve at this point to make a decision this big without input from experts. Those seven experts on the ICONIC Advisory Committee will be bringing me their collective recommendation. We have so many passionate people in our industry that it was very hard to narrow it down to just seven. I feel these seven experts are very open-minded and objective, which is one of the most important things to me in this process, and I think they will do a phenomenal job making a recommendation on the future car.

16th And Georgetown: Just after it was announced that you would become the new IRL CEO, Bill from Pressdog.com started up a campaign to get fans to send you letters with their thoughts and ideas. Since March 1st, when you took office, what kind of reaction have you received from the fans?

Randy Bernard: I have had a tremendous response from the fans and I love it. I’m getting so many e-mails that it’s going to take me a couple months to make sure that I’m accommodating everyone. I really enjoy reading fan letters and gauging their input, ideas and responses. I’ve received e-mails and letters on a variety of subjects from fans. As I said earlier, the rear wing was one example of a hot topic with fans. Other popular topics include suggestions on future race markets and the ICONIC IndyCar Series Advisory Committee as well as open versus sole sourcing. There’s a tremendous amount of e-mails and it’s been fantastic. I do prefer emails because they are very simple and I can read them very quickly. In fact, when I’m sitting on the airplane I’ll be going through all of the fan e-mails on my computer. I’m looking at creating a fan-specific e-mail address so I can have them housed all in one place. As soon as that’s set up we’ll be sure to get that out so fans know how to contact me.
Huge thanks to Randy Bernard for taking the time out of his incredibly busy day to do the Q&A, and to the spectacular Amy Konrath of IndyCar PR for setting it up.


Dude. Thanks for the shout out. Good stuff here. You have to give Randy points for openness, at least.

No problemo, the Bernard e-mail campaign was a fantastic idea!

No problemo, the Bernard e-mail campaign was a fantastic idea!

Indy had over 40 cars trying to qualify as recent as 2002 and through most of the late 90's and early 2000's, had a mid 40's car count.

In the first races of 2010 we saw different postive things for the IndyCAr: first of all, an increasing number of cars (25, when few days before the first race a lot of people thought that we would have seen no more than 20 cars) and a large crwod on tracks...maybe is it already a success of Randy Bernard? Maybe was he already able to tickle the right way to attract the fans, sponsors and cars?

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