When Randy Bernard was hired three years ago as the CEO of IndyCar, the former pro rodeo executive was seen as a breath of fresh air. He was the outsider with new ideas and the promotional savvy to revitalize open-wheel racing in North America – in spite of his minimal knowledge of motorsports.
While there may have been setbacks along the way, Bernard did exactly what he said he would do.
He strengthened the competition by increasing car counts and introducing a new chassis which created more parity and made IndyCar as competitive as it had been since the infamous open-wheel split.
Bernard's hard work behind the scenes brought Chevrolet back into the fold after the manufacturer had been turned off by the continued void in direction represented by the previous regime.
And more important, for the first time in years, IndyCar had something it had been missing: Optimism. That was highlighted by a season which showcased eight different winners in 15 events and was capped by a fantastic points battle between Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power.
However in the end, it wasn't enough.
On Sunday, Bernard was forced out as the CEO of IndyCar in a power play that will could end with the man Bernard replaced, Tony George, resuming his position as the Grand Poobah of IndyCar.
The news confirmed what we've long held to be true: That car owners and other IndyCar decision-makers can't handle prosperity. Their egos are simply too large to allow some outsider who knew nothing about racing to come in and dictate how things were going to be done.
They resented Bernard for what he wasn't, even though they lauded his hiring just three years ago by saying he was exactly what IndyCar needed.
In IndyCar, owners think they are the show and should set policy. That's unlike Formula One and NASCAR, which are ruled by essentially one person who doesn't have to answer to a board or a group of egotistical car owners who think they know best.
Not coincidently, both F1 and NASCAR had flourished while IndyCar continued to fall further and further behind both economically and in terms of popularity prior to Bernard's arrival. Finally, after years of failed leadership, it appeared IndyCar had learned the err of its ways and recognized it needed a shakeup – gone was George, the person most responsible for the split.
This makes Sunday's news of Bernard's departure all the more baffling.
All the pieces were finally in place for IndyCar to be relevant again: Marquee drivers with camera-friendly personalities, a good mixture of superspeedways, short ovals and road and street courses, companies wanting to spend money with the series – Bernard had it going.
Most important, the series had a strong leader who possessed a vision of what IndyCar should be and was willing to do the hard work necessary to restore open-wheel racing to its once lofty heights in the motorsports hierarchy.
And now, in one ill-advised decision, IndyCar is headed back down the path of being irrelevant.
In the end, those who run IndyCar might end up getting what they deserve.