Responding to criticism of the format for selecting starting positions for the second half of last Saturday's Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motorsport Speedway, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard (LEFT) has acknowledged that the process of drawing for positions was "a bit gimmicky" and pledged to review alternatives for future doubleheader events.
“We have to evaluate everything we do this year and make sure that we are providing the best competition, entertainment and value to give that great fan experience,” Bernard said on IndyCar.com. “It was a little bit gimmicky and I take the blame for it.
“In saying that, I think it's important to make sure we sustain credibility for that (IZOD IndyCar) World Championship. I'm not convinced that what we did Saturday night does that. A draw takes away from that, especially if somebody loses the (title) by five points to a draw. The thing we want in our sport is the best drivers in the world. This isn't about finishing 26th; this is about winning No. 1. If we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to bring those best drivers in the world over here and making sure they know that if they're the best in the world, they're going to win it.”
Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti – who won the opening race but drew a low number and was forced to start near the back of the second, in which he finished seventh – argued forcefully against the fairness of the process both on Versus' coverage of the race and in his comments to the media afterward. While he acknowledged Tuesday that his comments had generated some ill-feeling, he is standing by them.
“I took a lot of heat for my comments, but people don't understand, in my opinion, the big picture,” Franchitti told IndyCar.com. “Had they inverted (the field) I would have started worse, but it would have been fair for everyone. I would have started last, Scott (Dixon) would have started second-last and Will (Power) would have started 28th. It would have been some performance parameter and that's all I was asking for.
“I really appreciate Randy taking ownership of the decision and the fact that it was the wrong decision and he's not ducking the issue at all,” Franchitti added. “From now on I think we'll see, I hope we'll see, better decisions that affect the big picture like the championship. It would have been great as an all-star race or one-off or something like that, but not with a championship race."
Bernard said that the format will be re-evaluated and a plan for 2012 will be presented to Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage.
“Eddie has been a great partner of ours and I think he wants the best for the sport, and I think if we went to Eddie and told him we think inversion is the best, he'd understand,” Bernard said. “It's not about his Texas Motor Speedway; it's about 17 races in the year and crowning a world champion. The fans loved Eddie's idea of turning the tires (for the draw)."
While IndyCar announced yesterday that TV ratings were up for the Texas race over 2010, Bernard believes the long layoff between the races – which including the controversial Wheel of Fortune-style draw for positions – was probably not the best way to bolster TV audience figures.
“It turns out overall we're up 12 percent, but my second-biggest concern is we were dead for 70 minutes in between the races," Bernard said. "We were up 12 percent, so would we have been up 30 percent if we didn't have a 70-minute lack of racing?”