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The challenge now will be finding a suitable replacement. Among the candidates are current Grand-Am champion Scott Pruett and ALMS race director Beaux Barfield. The new director likely will have to immediately work on tightening the rule book, which many drivers complained was too loose and put Barnhart in the position to make questionable calls.

Among other pressing issues is Bernard’s failure to formally announce the 2012 schedule, which is being held up as the investigation into Wheldon’s death determines if IndyCar can continue to race on high-banked ovals.

The series is unlikely to return to Las Vegas despite two years remaining on a contract to rent the facility from owner Bruton Smith for the season finale, and IndyCar has yet to sign an official sanctioning agreement with Texas Motor Speedway, a high-banked oval that is among the most popular venues on the schedule.

Should neither event return, Bernard will be left with a 14-race schedule and be forced to end a condensed season in early September at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. _ a previously announced oval that is making its return to the IndyCar Series in 2012.

Bernard also is facing concerns about the new IndyCar, which Wheldon helped develop. Although drivers have found it acceptable in recent road course tests, they’ve complained it’s too slow and difficult to handle on ovals.

Scott Dixon and Ryan Briscoe tested the car Tuesday and Wednesday at California. Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan both tested it in early November at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and found the speeds to be almost 15 mph slower than what was expected.