IndyCar, NASCAR, and a Question
In recent weeks Randy Bernard, IndyCar CEO and promotional expert, has been crucified for doing his job. He promoted a race. He offered money to Dan Wheldon to win from the back of the pack. He created a buzz; he generated interest. He did what Saturday night short track owners/promoters have been doing for years. He figured out a way to put people in the seats, either in person or at home. How many times has the feature at some quarter mile dirt or pavement oval been inverted to create passing? And hasn’t a by-product always been the element of danger? The New York Times hasn’t done an article on that, has it? Randy Bernard is a target because he doesn’t have a racing pedigree.
NASCAR president Mike Helton tells the taxicab drivers to “Have at it, boys” and the fans and media wink and rub their hands together. Sounds just like quarter mile dirt or pavement owners/promoters trying to generate a little interest, doesn’t it? It should. Mike Helton is an expert. He is one of the boys. He is respected in the paddock and the media because of his expert status. And one of his “boys” just tried to kill someone at Texas.
And the punishment amounts to a time-out. It is no more than being told to sit in a corner. And NASCAR did it all to promote its show. To put more people in the seats, both in person and at home. Its ratings were dropping and it did something to spice up the show. And they are geniuses. And Randy Bernard is vilified for doing exactly the same thing. The difference is the racers themselves.
Kyle Busch deliberately put Ron Hornaday in the wall. He committed assault with intent to kill. IndyCar drivers wreck each other. They did it week after week this year on road and street courses. But they never did it on an oval. And they did not do it intentionally. They did it aggressively. They did it stupidly. They did it optimistically. But they never did it intentionally. The “boys” in the taxicab series try to do it. Tell me who should be blamed and who is blameless? Kyle Busch is despicable, but he is also just a consequence of the decisions to let drivers try to kill each other. Let the drivers fight after the race, not during. How can you have respect for a series that promotes this mayhem? You can’t. And that’s why I love open wheel racing. They are not perfect, but at least they don’t have homicidal rages behind the wheel.
Randy Bernard did not create a scenario where a driver died. Mike Helton and his cronies have created a situation where a driver can. And they should be held accountable. The Roman poet Juvenal wrote: “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” Who will guard the guardians?