I grew up in a small Indiana town. Not only did I know all the business people and citizens of the place, I knew every dog in town by name. If you were a quarter short on your bill, the local grocery, drugstore, and gas station would let you have it on the cuff. They knew where you lived. It was a good way to grow up. Sadly, the small town experience has fallen victim to Wal-Mart, Lowes, and Amazon. Personal service is a thing of the past. I miss it.
Sometimes, though, the loss of the small town Mom and Pop store needs to happen. Wal-Mart, for all its heavy-handed insistence on driving competition out of business, saves consumers money, and Amazon allows people the convenience of shopping for everything from home. Hulman & Company, the corporation that owns both Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series, has finally moved away from its Terre Haute roots and is searching for success in the 21st century. They understand that they have to grow or atrophy. There is no in-between.
Exit Jeff Belskus. The Hulman & Company president and CEO announced his (cough) retirement from the business last week. Mark Miles has systematically
cleaned house reorganized the business to consolidate his power. If he, and IndyCar fans, want the series to succeed, this had to happen. Poor Randy Bernard, brought in by the board to affect change, was hamstrung and marginalized from the beginning of his tenure by the tentacles of the Terre Haute mafia that allowed anyone with a grievance to do an end-around to the offices of his superiors. Additionally, Bernard was never given the budget to hire the pros in marketing, sales, event management, and finance that Miles has brought on board. Whether fans like it or not, the face of IndyCar racing is changing forever.
Recently, Miles added Allison Melangton, former president of the Indiana Sports Corporation, as VP of events, and Cindy Lucchese as chief financial officer and chief administrative officer. In fact, Belskus was out on Thursday and Lucchese was in on Monday. Different positions, yes, but both are financial people. The years of IMS and the IndyCar Series being a sinecure for family and friends, no matter how well-connected and nice, are over. Well, kind of over. Just because you are connected doesn’t mean you are incompetent. IMS and the series still employ family and friends, who, from all indications, are capable. They just may no longer have as much access to the inner sanctum. And that is important.
The Yellow Shirts and ticket and credentials offices at IMS continue to retain their folksy ways. If you call or stop by for a visit, you will absolutely be introduced to true Hoosier hospitality. That’s the veneer. If you venture to where the new bosses reside, I am sure the vibe would be much more professional. President Lyndon Johnson famously said, “I don’t want loyalty. I want loyalty. I want him to kiss my a– in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses.” Miles has his loyal team and has gathered the power to him. Now it’s time to take care of business.