Randy Bernard’s ideal world would include more IndyCar races in more places and more of the double-file restarts that have drawn some complaints this season.
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The series’ CEO said Friday if it was up to him, the schedule would expand to 24 races, feature more international stops and return to Phoenix. He also would keep the restarts despite the criticism.
”Look, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Chip Ganassi and Roger Penske and this was their idea,” Bernard said of the double-file restarts which will debut at Indy on May 29. ”This is racing.”
Series officials changed the restarts this season in hopes it would create more excitement among fans, and Bernard believes that’s one reason attendance increased at three of the first four stops – St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Brazil.
Many drivers and owners contend it’s simply created more wreckage.
And most drivers believe using the double-file concept at Indianapolis, where there’s a small groove, is downright dangerous.
”That’s really stupid,” Canadian Alex Tagliani said earlier this week.
Bernard said Brian Barnhart, IndyCar’s president of competition and racing operations, and Mel Harder, the speedway’s senior vice president of operations, met Friday to discuss their concerns about Indy. He didn’t say what had been decided.
But Bernard isn’t ready to give in to demands to shelve the concept.
”I think our position is it’s going to happen, just like we said at the beginning of the season,” he said.
In addition, Bernard would like to make some changes to future schedules.
He acknowledged the series will consider putting a second race in Brazil and continues to look into the possibility of racing in China, perhaps as early as 2012.
And he’d like to get the series back to Phoenix, which hosted IndyCar races from 1996 through 2005.
But Bernard believes more international races should not come at the expense of the American races on this year’s schedule. Instead, he’d like to expand the schedule.
”I think Phoenix would be a great market, and if I had my way, I’d go there the week before Daytona,” he said.
Bernard also said a decision about possibly delaying the implementation of the new car packages by one year, from 2012 to 2013, will not come until after this year’s Indianapolis 500 is over.
Some owners want the delay to defray costs next season.
SCHWITZER AWARD: Four engineers from Honda Performance Development were honored with the 45th Louis Schwitzer Award on Friday.
The award is given for innovation and engineering excellence in race-car design.
The four engineers – James Goodloe, Roger Griffiths, Marcelo Martinelli and Robert Bell – designed Honda’s Refuleing Safety Interlock System. The system prevents cars from leaving pit lane with the refueling hose still attached and helps prevents fuel spills and potential injuries to drivers and crew members.
The winners receive $10,000.
Previous winners include former car owner and STP boss Andy Granatelli, who won the first award in 1967, Dan Gurney (1968 and 1972), Bruce McLaren (1970), A.J. Foyt (1974), Parnelli Jones (1975), Bill Simpson (1990) and the five-man team that created the SAFER barriers in 2002.
RAISING CASH: The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation raised nearly $300,000 at its annual Racing to Recovery Gala on Wednesday.
The fundraiser has become one of the biggest events of the month in Indianapolis, with many drivers and team owners attending. This year, longtime IndyCar and NASCAR team owner Roger Penske was presented with the Legends of Racing Award.
Schmidt, a former IndyCar driver, was paralyzed from the chest down after crashing during a practice in 2000 and founded the charitable group that hopes to find a cure for paralysis by funding research, medical treatment, rehabilitation and medical advances.
Tagliani, one of Schmidt’s drivers at the speedway, has been near the top of the speed charts all week.
PIT STOPS: Speedway officials will have a special tribute for longtime public address announcer Tom Carnegie on Saturday, just before qualifying starts at 11 a.m. Carnegie died at the age of 91 in February. … Former drag racer Don ”The Snake” Prudhomme attended practice Friday at the track. … U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe was the honorary starter for Friday’s practice – the first day a commemorative Indy 500 stamp was issued honoring the race’s centennial celebration.