George’s subsequent suspension of his Vision Racing team – through lack of sponsorship – was another dent that the IRL simply didn’t need. However, those that are proclaiming this to be the end of the road for the IRL my well be putting far too much emphasis on George himself. As influential as he was, Tony George was not the series.
Randy Bernard, 43 tomorrow, takes over the position of CEO that George left vacant. It has been cited over the last couple of days that he has never been to an Indycar race and a number of fans have thrown their typing hands in the air in disgust as a result.
However, there is more than enough scope to believe that this is an incredibly shrewd decision by the IRL. That Bernard has no previous attachments to the sport may be incredibly beneficial as he can (in theory) view the IRL in a very different light than Tony George. He will not be swayed by those that desperate to hold on to the 1960’s or 70’s, nor will he alienate them either – the truth is Bernard will need to shape the sport for the future and one cannot do that without recognising the achievements and mistakes of the past; however history should never steer the future with such vigour.
With the Professional Bull Riders Association, he has built a sport with a large following from essentially nothing, so he has nothing to prove when it comes to marketing and business acumen. He has proven that he knows how to grow niche sports and with that in mind, those inside the sport need to give him room to operate efficiently.
George’s deep relationship with the IRL, Vision Racing and the Indianapolis Motorspeedway itself often meant that decisions were not made in good light and with him being so entrenched in many different elements, it often appeared that couldn’t see the bigger picture. Let us not forget that Tony George did an awful lot for the sport that was positive – mainly with regards to safety; however there were a lot of negative aspects as well, yet while all of his achievements must be recognised, his errors must be sufficiently noted so that they are not repeated once again.
It has been stated here before that the last the last CART / IRL split lasted 14 years and it may take just that long for the rifts to fully heal. This series will not cure itself overnight and it would be a ridiculous notion to think that it ever could, but it is taking the right steps – even if they are just baby steps.