Bernard Answers Call For American Involvement

Roger Penske (left) and IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard stand beside the Chevrolet Camaro pace car and Al Unser's 1986 Indy-winning entry at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Ron McQueeney/IndyCar Photo)
Roger Penske (left) and IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard stand beside the Chevrolet Camaro pace car and Al Unser's 1986 Indy-winning entry at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Ron McQueeney/IndyCar Photo)

AVONDALE, Ariz. — When IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard is convinced he can do something to improve the sport, he won’t take no for an answer. And when it came to bringing Chevrolet back to the IZOD IndyCar Series for the first time since 2005, no was never an option.

Chevrolet will return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2012 and to the IndyCar Series as a full-time engine manufacturer. The car company will also be involved with building an “aero kit” that will give its cars a unique sense of styling as well as competitive aerodynamics.

“I try to make my mind up on something and if I think it is the right thing I’m not going to take no for an answer,” Bernard said. “I’m going to keep working and working and working. I went out on the line at the ICONIC press conference and said we would sign another engine manufacturer. We committed to an additional one and this opens up the playing field right now. It’s a great start for the future of IndyCar and continues our momentum.”

Chevrolet will return to the series that it left following the 2005 season. That was before unification between Champ Car and what was then known as the Indy Racing League, which comprises today’s IZOD IndyCar Series. When IndyCar decided to move away from the current normally aspirated engine and adopt a 2.6-liter turbocharged formula, the time was right for Chevrolet to look to the future and how it can benefit its company’s production-based market.

Bernard also listened to the most important constituency of all — the fans.

“To me I hope we have listened to what fans wanted,” Bernard said. “What I’ve heard from day to day to day is fans and everyone in IndyCar wanted competition. The second thing they wanted was an American manufacturer. This is the first step. Chevy coming back and competing with such a rich heritage is fantastic. It’s a dream come true for me being here for nine months.”

It was a natural choice for both companies.

“Our strategy and their strategy lined up very well,” Bernard explained. “Relevant technology and innovation were all very important to their strategy. They want to use IndyCar to showcase their technology. I think that lines up really well with our new car and the aero kits up to a V-6 turbo and 2.4-liter. They were very excited. It didn’t take any convincing from us. Gil de Ferran and I met with them in July and we had a presentation that we took to Europe to the American manufacturers. It was not only about the strategy of our 2012 car; it was about the strategy and future of IndyCar. They listened very intently and we could tell there was some interest when we first met with them. Then Roger Penske called me a few months ago and he said we have someone interested in the game. I didn’t want to know who at the time because we were talking to so many people and we were working other relationships. Then when the time was right, we could start negotiating our engine deal.”

The decision to return to IndyCar just seemed right to General Motors, which has overcome the dark times of a troubled automotive economy and once again has emerged as a major automotive force.

After all, what is more American than Chevrolet competing in the Indianapolis 500?

“I think it is important,” said Jim Campbell, GM’s U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. “It’s a natural for us and it’s great for the series. We’re competing on the track with one of our general market competitors, so that is a good thing. We have quite a history here with Louis Chevrolet. It’s special to announce we are coming back in 2012. What we like about the series now is it has a distinct fan base for Chevrolet. They appreciate the technology. We like the series for a distinct base for Chevrolet at Indy, we are seeing within viewership that the 18-34 male viewership is up 40 percent. Third and most important is the ability to translate what we learn on the track to the production vehicle. Where we are going in the next four or five years in terms of fuel economy, Cap A standards and greenhouse gas emissions will require us to supply mass propulsion technology to vehicles to make them efficient yet fun to drive.”