Rumors and reports of strife spoil Indy 500 boost
The excitement over a strong Indianapolis 500 didn't last very long for IndyCar.
A Wednesday report on Speed.com detailed an alleged revolt by several team owners to oust IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. Rumors of discord has been present at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week, threatening to overshadow the biggest race of the year.
The report claims IndyCar founder Tony George and a handful of team owners are behind a charge to have Bernard fired. Also listed were team owners John Barnes, Kevin Kalkhoven, Michael Andretti and his father, Mario.
Michael Andretti immediately denounced the report on Twitter, calling it ''sensationalism'' and saying there ''is no lynch mob!''
Before Sunday's race, Bernard tried to defuse any controversy and it seemed to work as the race was generally regarded as one of the best in history.
Only the focus now is not on the race, the decent television rating or the need to build some momentum for the series. Instead, it went back to business as usual as the owners seemed to pick up right where they were before the race.
Bernard confirmed the mounting speculation in his own tweet Tuesday night, admitting ''it is true that an owner is calling others trying to get me fired. I have had several owners confirm this.''
Team owners have been upset over several issues, most consistently the escalating costs to field IndyCar's new car this season. The price tag is much higher than what Bernard quoted, and money has been a sore spot since before the season began.
But the angst has escalated of late, particularly among the Chevrolet team owners. Chevy lost a pair of appeals protesting a component of rival Honda's turbocharger, and the anger spread to other manufacturers after IndyCar levied fines throughout the garage that reached $300,000 for 19 infractions among 13 different teams.
''I've been involved now in racing for 28 months, and what I've seen is this unbelievable amount of passion to win, desire to win, not only from drivers but mainly from team owners,'' Bernard said last weekend. ''When a call is not made in their direction, of course they're going to be upset.''
Roger Penske, team owner for the drivers who won the first four races of the season, was initially not speaking to Bernard after the Honda rulings. But he met with Bernard at Indy, and insisted to The Associated Press he's supportive of the series, the CEO and not a part of any plot to have Bernard ousted.
Andretti, meanwhile, has been one of the most supportive owners in IndyCar this season. Besides his three full-time entries, he fielded two more cars in the Indy 500 to help get to the full 33-car field. He also fields entries in the Mazda Road to Indy developmental series.
And he's stepped up as a promoter this year to take over the races at Milwaukee and Baltimore, which were both in danger of vanishing. He took over Milwaukee when IndyCar needed a 16th race to complete its schedule, and stepped in at Baltimore last month.
Still, the discord is nothing new for open-wheel racing, where infighting and power struggles have long plagued the series.
Bernard inherited it all when he was hired to replace George, who was ousted by his family after years of mounting costs. In just over two years, Bernard has brought renewed enthusiasm to IndyCar, reduced debt, increased attendance and television ratings, introduced a new car and brought in multiple engine manufacturers.
There's also some parity in IndyCar, despite the early dominance by Penske drivers.
The Indy 500, which had a record 34 lead changes, featured big finishes for small teams. Among them was Oriol Servia, who gave Dreyer & Reinbold its best Indy result ever with a fourth-place finish. It was the team's first race with a Chevrolet engine since it ditched Lotus in early May.
Justin Wilson was seventh for Dale Coyne Racing, and Alex Tagliani was 12th for Bryan Herta Autosport, which sat out of last month's race at Brazil to regroup and defect from Lotus to Honda.
IndyCar's next race is Sunday, the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix. It's the first major race in Detroit since 2008.