CEO Randy Bernard steps down

Updated: October 29, 2012, 5:13 PM ET
By John Oreovicz | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- INDYCAR is still not for sale, but it is moving into the future with a new leader.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation announced that a special board meeting convened Sunday resulted in the removal of Randy Bernard as INDYCAR CEO.

Bernard is believed to have resigned under pressure after the company that operates the IZOD IndyCar Series failed to post a profit for the third consecutive year of his tenure.

Bernard did help attract two new engine manufacturers to the IndyCar Series and fast tracked a new car design for 2012 that produced one of the best seasons of open-wheel racing in recent memory.

But despite a generally satisfactory performance since he took over in March 2010, Bernard's power base weakened over the past six months as a group of IndyCar Series team owners waged a behind the scenes campaign for his ouster.

A conflict over the cost of spare parts for the new car served as the focal point for the unhappiness between the competitors and INDYCAR management. Under Bernard's leadership, the IndyCar Series also struggled with decreasing television ratings and some promoters grew unhappy with sweetheart deals Bernard cut to convince some oval tracks to join the schedule.

The cancellation of the August race in China, which resulted in the non-receipt of a $4 million sanction fee, was another key factor in Bernard's rapid downfall.

More recently, when former INDYCAR CEO Tony George explored the possibility of re-acquiring the series he founded in the mid-1990s, the IMS board stressed that INDYCAR was not for sale. But the board also failed to provide Bernard with a vote of confidence, a clear signal that his tenure was near its end despite having two years remaining on his contract.

Jeff Belskus, CEO of IMS Corporation, will assume Bernard's duties on an interim basis. The Boston Consulting Group has been retained to help INDYCAR identify a new leader and develop a revised business plan.

[+] EnlargeRandy Bernard
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioRandy Bernard stepped down as INDYCAR CEO on Sunday.

"We are very grateful for the tireless effort that Randy has invested into learning, understanding and working to grow the IndyCar Series over the last three racing seasons," Belskus stated. "As both Randy and our organization have reflected on the past season and as we look toward the opportunities ahead and how to best take advantage of them, we agreed that the timing was right to pursue separate paths.

"The organization is full of talented professionals, and we will continue to prepare for what will be a very exciting 2013 racing season. Once again, INDYCAR is not for sale, and the (IMSC) organization remains completely committed to owning and operating INDYCAR."

Bernard joined INDYCAR in March 2010 after a successful career as the head of the Professional Bull Riders series. Although he had no auto racing experience, it was hoped that Bernard's marketing skills would be an asset to the struggling form of motorsports.

The IndyCar Series demonstrated growth during Bernard's first two seasons on the job. But he never seemed to escape the fallout from Dan Wheldon's fatal accident at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the 2011 season finale. In fact, much of Bernard's final year was marked by controversy and dissent.

Although his time with INDYCAR was comparatively brief, Bernard was IndyCar racing's most visible front man in decades and he was particularly adept at connecting with race fans. News of his departure was met with shock and disbelief on social media platforms.

"I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with the entire INDYCAR community, its teams, drivers, loyal partners and fans," Bernard said. "The last three years have produced some exciting, and some difficult, times. But we have created a foundation for INDYCAR that positions it to grow over the next several years, and I am proud of what everyone at INDYCAR has been able to accomplish since I came on board."

He added: "With the (Hulman-George) family's firm commitment to the betterment of the sport and the dedication of our teams, drivers, partners and fans, INDYCAR is better poised for success than it has been in many years."