30 June 2009

It's (Finally) Official: George Out at IMS

Tony George, whose reign as the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and creator of the Indy Racing League drew a line in the sand for open-wheel racing afficianados, resigned as the chief executive officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy Racing League and Hulman & Co. today.

According to Curt Cavin at The Indianapolis Star
, Curt Brighton will head Hulman & Co., while Jeff Belskus will head IMS. IndianapolisMotorSpeedway.com has the following statement from Mari Hulman-George:
"Our board had asked Tony to structure our executive staff to create efficiencies in our business structure and to concentrate his leadership efforts in the Indy Racing League. He has decided that with the recent unification of open-wheel racing and the experienced management team IMS has cultivated over the years, now would be the time for him to concentrate on his team ownership of Vision Racing with his family and other personal business interests he and his family share.

"Tony will remain on the Board of Directors of all of our companies, and he will continue to work with the entire board to advance the interests of all of companies.

"Our family and the entire racing community are grateful to Tony for the leadership and direction he has provided since 1990. We are pleased that he will continue to be an important part of the Indy Racing League as a team owner and as a member of our Board of Directors, and we wish him every success."
But maybe the biggest part of Hulman-George's statement comes in the last part of the article, in which she says:
"These changes underscore our family's commitment going forward to all of our companies, especially our commitment to the growth of the Indy Racing League and the sport of open-wheel racing. We believe the Hulman-George family's long stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, beginning in 1945, and our significant investment in the Speedway and in the IRL demonstrates that we have full confidence in all of our companies and that we intend to grow them in the future."
So, the Hulman-George family remains committed to IndyCar racing at IMS. Tony George will run his team on a day-to-day basis (which he already does), while the leadership of Joie Chitwood III at IMS and Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhardt at the IndyCar Series continues. On the day-to-day level, nothing changes.

Now, the debate can continue about how the history of American open-wheel racing will remember Tony George, but the IndyCar Series will continue with its day-to-day operations, working to gain market share and continue its progress from last season's reunification.

And honestly, unless the IMS decides to pull all financial support for the ICS (I doubt that happens, unless the series continues to lack a title sponsor), the lack of passing and exciting racing is a much bigger problem for the sport right now than the change in leadership in the ICS and IMS.

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