On giving credit where it is due

LOUDON, NH - JUNE 27: Indy Racing League driver Dario Franchitti (R) and Indy Racing League CEO Randy Bernard speak to the media prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LENOX Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 27, 2010 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

These days, when so much is going right, it might be easy for IndyCar fans to deify Randy Bernard.

It might be hard for those fans to imagine that there are people chafing about that fact.

But there are, as there are in any company with a very public figurehead who, by the nature of the job, is poised to accept all of the glory for success and defer the blame for failure.

Fact is, in IndyCar as in any other company there are many, many unsung heroes who do the trench work and apply the elbow grease. They are the ones who get things done. If they do their job right, the front office accepts the plaudits. If they don't, then their jobs could be in danger.

Anyone who has tasted life in a cubicle or at a cheap Formica desk knows that life, its risks, and its rare rewards (or, more often, the lack thereof).

These people should - but usually don't - get more than a nice Secret Santa gift or a gift card to Home Depot for their efforts. So when a handful of the administration team gets wined, dined, and generally kowtowed to, it's understandable that these folks are at the very least keen to have credit given where it is due.

The startling road to renaissance of IndyCar racing did not begin the day that Randy Bernard moved his desktop planner and hand sanitizer bottle onto his desk as CEO. The machinations of many deals that are only now seeing the light of day were actually organized and put together by people already in place in the IndyCar corporate depth chart.

So it would be unfair to those people to lay the accolades for everything good that has happened to this sport over the past year at Randy Bernard's cowboy boots.

Having said that, there are two things that Randy Bernard did that nobody else was able to do - or, worse, that nobody else was willing to do - before he jumped into the saddle. Since we're assigning credit where it is due, let's make sure he gets the proper amount.

First, the ICONIC Committee. This, more than anything else that has happened in 15 years, is the defibrillator-to-the-heart that took IndyCar off of life support. There are those who say that it wasn't Randy Bernard who designed the Delta Wing that got IndyCar off its collective butt to have a new car ready for 2012. That is true - however, it was Bernard who realized that IndyCar had to get off its butt in the first place, when almost everyone else in the IndyCar establishment was preaching to him the mantra, "Wait. Wait. Wait." And it was Bernard who decided that the new rules had to be put together by committee instead of letting himself dangle by the puppet strings of one or two of the series' power brokers.

ICONIC was initially seen as a joke at best and a disaster in the making at worst. The car owners - and fans, for that matter - nearly revolted over it. Then Randy's salesmanship efforts started bearing fruit, General Motors and Lotus came on board, and people started changing their minds. Their minds will change more when new aero kit and engine manufacturers commit for 2013.

The second thing that Randy Bernard has done is something that nobody has been able to accomplish since even before the Split Era. Namely, he has put a sympathetic, friendly face on the IndyCar front office.

Let's not kid ourselves here. He's not the most polished public speaker. But he speaks to people - all kinds of people, from the highest corporate muckety-mucks to the lowest fan - with the same equanimity, honesty, and engagement. He is the first IndyCar CEO in decades to ask the fans, "What do you want to see?" and then follow up by giving it to them if he can. A man who values public relations over marketing, his grand plan is "Not my will be done, but thine."

Nobody at that level has engaged the racing world on those terms in a very long time. For longer than most people who love the sport can remember, the head honchos in American open-wheel racing have been poster boys for greed, ego, control, and disconnection.

Not anymore. People trust Randy Bernard as the IndyCar CEO. And that, dear readers, is an achievement of such staggering proportions that to downplay it would be criminal.

So as we move forward - and it is so nice to say that honestly instead of use it as a euphemism for, "As we try to keep from sinking any further" - let's give credit where it is indeed due: both to the hard-working employees of IndyCar, and to the guy who is their public face. You people make a good productive team, and that should be a source of immense pride after so many long years of dysfunction.

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