Goodness, where do we begin?
Tuesday night, a mere 48 hours and change after Dario Franchitti's third Indianapolis 500 victory, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard tweeted this:
#INDYCAR @INDYCAR it is true that an owner is calling others trying to get me fired. I have had several owners confirm this. disappointing
Thus, the speculation began: who was this owner who made the call? Was it an owner acting independently, or was it a "grassroots" effort with multiple accomplices?It was likely a Chevy owner, thanks to (the poorly named) "Turbogate" appeals process that allowed Honda to keep the compressor cover it introduced in April. (Honda engines have a single-turbocharger while Chevrolet's are twin-turbos.)
Wednesday afternoon, SPEED's Robin Miller said these Chevy team owners were involved:
It doesn't matter if it was Michael Andretti making the calls or that Mario wants a change; this movement was started by John Barnes and Tony George, with a silent endorsement from Kevin Kalkhoven, based on everything I've heard or been told. Roger Penske was calling for the hangman a few weeks ago but evidently has changed his mind.
That's basically every influential Chevy team. Michael Andretti responded on Twitter, calling the report sensationalist and that there was no lynch mob.
Bernard came to the IndyCar Series from the PBR -- not the beer, the Professional Bull Riders -- and it's no secret that he's not a lifelong racer. More of a marketer than a mechanic. And many feel that has been held against him, justly or not.
Dissent within the ranks isn't new to open-wheel racing. Hell, the dissent of the mid-90s is primarily the reason the IndyCar Series is where it is now. Without "The Split," there's a chance that, *gasp*, open-wheel racing is the premier motorsports series in the United States, and NASCAR rise isn't so meteoric.
But the past is the past. In the present, the series is in a tough spot. While ratings for Sunday's 500 were up slightly over last year, the number of viewers for a race on what's now the NBC Sports Network could fit comfortably in Indianapolis Motor Speedway. With that limited reach, sponsorship checks aren't very fat. Plus, the new chassis introduced this year has been more expensive than what owners expected.
Not to mention the Lotus thing, the disappearance of the series from ISC tracks, the financial troubles of some races that are on the schedule and Dan Wheldon's death in last year's season finale.
So yes, Sunday's race was a much-needed positive for the IndyCar Series. Heck, if you surveyed people who watched both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600, 95 percent would pick the 500 as the days better race. And that may be a conservative estimate.
However, it remains to be seen how much of that momentum will carry over to Sunday's race at Belle Isle in Detroit, or even to the race in Texas on June 9. How many who tuned in to the 500 will find the Detroit race Sunday after the Sprint Cup Series race? Plus, how many of those will be disappointed by the likely severe drop in passing? The Texas race has the potential to be the most exciting race of the IndyCar season. But the black cloud of Las Vegas will be there too.
And so, apparently, is a black cloud over the relationship between one sector of the garage and IndyCar management. This could be nothing -- something that could pass in a few weeks with multiple Chevrolet wins. Or it could be something. Something that ultimately helps the IndyCar Series or something that pushes it further away from the mainstream. We're about to find out.