Q&A: IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard talks about the new schedule, new engines and more

Randy Bernard, who became chief executive of the Izod IndyCar Series nine months ago, continues making changes in hopes of boosting IndyCar's fan appeal and financial well-being.

He announced at the L.A. Auto Show on Wednesday that the British auto company Lotus would provide engines to IndyCar teams starting in 2012, joining longtime supplier Honda. Last week Chevrolet also said it would provide engines in 2012.

IndyCar plans to use a new Dallara chassis in 2012 that would be "dressed" with different body work, or aero kits, from competing designers.

Bernard, who formerly ran the Professional Bull Riders series, and his team have tweaked IndyCar's schedule for next season. And they've heard proposals from tracks such as Auto Club Speedway, the two-mile oval in Fontana that's losing one of its two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock-car races starting next year.

Here are Bernard's comments on those and other topics:

Question: Is having Lotus and Chevrolet join your sport going to sell one more ticket?

Answer: Yes.

Q: How?

A: Lotus and Chevy and Honda will all spend more money on activating and marketing IndyCar and their brand, and create new fan bases. That's a big part of it. The fans have been completely passionate that they want to see variety.

Q: Your 2011 schedule unveiled Sept. 10 didn't specify the final race of the season. Have you announced that yet?

A: No, not yet.

Q: But you're leaning toward Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

A: My preference is Las Vegas. I have a 15-year history in Las Vegas [with the bull riders].

Q: Why has it taken this long to make a decision?

A: We're getting very close. The word is out there that it's probably going to happen. I want to make sure that we have everything buttoned up. We will be the promoter, which means we're taking the risk. And I would love to be able to announce a title sponsor for that [race].

Q: A possible second choice for the season finale is Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, which made a pitch for the race, right? And you talked about it with the speedway's president, Gillian Zucker?

A: I've had several meetings with her. She flew in and met with me and called me and e-mailed me. She's aggressive. I like that.

Q: You even heard from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, correct?

A: Yes, Gov. Schwarzenegger called me. I was getting off an airplane in New York — I'm trying to get my luggage and everything — and he's, like, 'Randy?' At first I thought it was a joke. And he goes, 'We'd like to have your race out here in Fontana.' I was very appreciative.

Q: Auto Club Speedway is one of several major tracks owned by International Speedway Corp. You dropped some of those tracks and now none appears on next year's schedule. Why?

A: Everyone says I was harsh on ISC by closing them out. But I don't want to close the door. It just didn't make sense this year [2011]. There were a couple of tracks I didn't feel did a very good job of promoting. There were some I felt there were scheduling conflicts. But I hope to think I have a really good relationship with . . . ISC still, and hopefully we can have a couple on the series in 2012.

Q: After the 2011 schedule was announced, you dropped the July race in Edmonton, Canada. Have you replaced it?

A: Edmonton is not a dead horse yet. They called us back and have asked for another week to see whether they can pull this together.

Q: In your nine months on the job, have you moved the needle for this sport?

A: Too early to tell. I'm in my first quarter of a four-year college stint. We've made some major changes. We've got a long way to go. It's very important that we reach youth. Starting next year for the very first time, kids [age] 9 and over will be able to go into the garage area; it's always been 18 and over.

I think what's important in my first year is setting up a foundation. I wanted to understand the culture, tradition and understand what fans wanted. My job is to make sure we bring the most intelligent people that I can that are open-minded and want the best for IndyCar.


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