- Associated Press - Saturday, May 26, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard twice deflected questions Saturday about his relationship with several team owners, citing his desire to focus on the series’ biggest race of the year.

There’s been an undercurrent of negativity since Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened May 9 for preparations for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Chevrolet team owners have been upset since losing a pair of appeals protesting a component of rival Honda’s turbocharger. The anger spread to other manufacturers when IndyCar last Sunday levied fines throughout the garage that, when all said and done, had reached $300,000 for 19 infractions among 13 different teams.

“I’ve been involved now in racing for 28 months, and what I’ve seen is this unbelievable amount of passion to win, desire to win, not only from drivers but mainly from team owners,” Bernard said. “When a call is not made in their direction, of course they’re going to be upset.”

Asked about rumors that team owners have banded together to make a case to IndyCar’s Board of Directors to have Bernard removed, the CEO smiled and stayed on message.

“You know, I’m not going to really take away from the Indy 500,” he said. “I think that the Indy 500 is why we’re here. I think, again, the team owners, their passion to win, there was a very upset team owner and still is. But I think it’s very clear that IndyCar is not going to play favorites.

“I think what you saw with penalties this week, it wasn’t one-sided. If there was an infraction, it was given. We reported those. That’s the new IndyCar.”

The “very upset team owner” is powerful Roger Penske, who stopped speaking to Bernard sometime after Chevrolet’s first appeal was denied. But Bernard and Penske met on Friday at the speedway for their first conversation in about a month.

Bernard inherited a huge mess of a series when he was hired to replace league founder Tony George. Despite a dramatic reduction of series-accumulated debt, increased attendance and television ratings, the introduction of a new car, and multiple engine manufacturers, many team owners remain unimpressed.

One issue is costs _ the new Dallara DW12 is more expensive than owners were led to believe, and exclusivity contracts with the manufacturer means teams can only purchase replacement parts from Dallara. There also seems to be a disconnect in how information is being disseminated to the teams, and criticism toward many of Bernard’s top series officials.

“We have a very competent IndyCar tech team,” Bernard said. “I think I’m going to stand behind their decisions.”

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OTHER LEAGUE NEWS: Bernard continues to look at the 2013 schedule, and is still trying to make a race in Ft. Lauderdale happen.

He’s also had conversations with Phoenix and Richmond, and at least one meeting with officials from Pocono. Bernard would love to get all three ovals on next year’s schedule. IndyCar is also committed to helping Michael Andretti’s promotional group put on this year’s events at Milwaukee and Baltimore.

But the CEO has cooled on Road America, in part because of Andretti’s attempt to keep Milwaukee on the schedule.

“I think we owe it to Michael Andretti, who is laying out a lot of money to make that event successful. He has asked us not to rush Road America right now,” Bernard said. “We have a responsibility to try to help Milwaukee every way we can, and we are. We put a lot of money into this, too. I think it’s important for us to keep the Milwaukee Mile on our race series.”

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