IndyCar courting Just Marketing founder Zak Brown for CEO
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The new head of Hulman & Co. has at least two different possible routes to take in rebuilding the IndyCar Series.
Option one for Mark Miles is hiring a new CEO to replace Randy Bernard. A second scenario could lead to streamlined operations for IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Miles in charge and strong leaders running the day-to-day operations.
Which way Miles goes likely depends on how ongoing talks develop with Zak Brown, founder of Indianapolis-based motorsports marketing company Just Marketing Inc.
"He's interested in doing something with us, and in his case, I think his only interest would be if we put the pieces together and he was the head of racing," Miles told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Brown was in the St. Petersburg paddock Friday talking to several team owners, Miles and board members before leaving for vacation on Saturday.
Miles said there are a few potential CEO candidates he's "looked at the resumes and thought `this might work,' " but that conversations with Brown are the most serious. But it's up to Brown to decide if he's truly interested in the job.
"He's got a complicated life that he's got to sort out, and we've also got to do our due diligence. You don't just fall in love overnight," Miles said. "We continue to learn about each other and how we think, and he can speak for himself - he's got other interests, and this isn't a part-time gig. So we've got to see."
JMI does a large amount of business in Formula One that has Brown in Europe quite often, and he was recently considering a full-time move to London with plans to search for a home for his family this month.
"I have a lot of passion for IndyCar and I'm getting to know Mark," Brown told AP in an E-mail en route to London. "We are exploring to see if there's a way to work together. It's a great product and I'm positive I could contribute to its growth and success."
It's not the first time Brown's name has come up as a potential head of IndyCar.
When series founder Tony George tried to regain control of IndyCar in October, his proposal listed a management team that included Brown and called for him to be the CEO and commissioner of IndyCar.
Should Brown not be interested in IndyCar CEO, Miles said he'd still like to include him in the series in some capacity. That falls in line with his second option of streamlined operations for IndyCar and IMS.
"It may not be that there's not a next IndyCar CEO, per se," he said. "Folks have sort of thought that we are just looking for a person to replace Randy and I don't know that's where we'll end up. First thing is, our organization has kind of built two organizations and you've got structure at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway organization that has sales and marketing and licensing and communications and then you've got the exact same functions staffed differently at the IndyCar organization, across the street from each other.
"So I think anybody coming to it would say, `Could we be a higher-performing, more effective organization with more money to invest in human resources if we put those together?"'
However it goes, team owner Roger Penske wants the focus to be on moving the series forward and said team owners have wasted too much time starting fires over small issues instead of concentrating on growth. Asked why IndyCar continually sabotages itself, Penske, while making a point to say he was "a fan of Randy's," blamed leadership.
"We've never had a strong enough leader as they do in NASCAR to say, `Hey guys, here's the rules, here's how we race, and guess what, if you don't like it, park your car outside and sit in the stands,"' Penske said. "That's what we need. We need some leadership."
Chip Ganassi, who also participates in NASCAR and NASCAR-owned Grand-Am, concurred.
"They have incompetent people tackling the issues. It's that simple," Ganassi said. "You have all these owners and these people and team managers, people who have been around the sport for 20 years who can tell you how to do it, but they bring in someone from the outside who just makes up the rules as they go along.
"This is not a dress rehearsal. We are professionals; we are supposed to know that. There's a fix for that, and it's not an overnight snap your fingers and Miles knows that. And it's not one guy. This one guy, you are not going to find one guy who can dunk the ball, who can catch a touchdown pass and smack a homerun. Those guys are hard to find. It's going to take a guy to come in and put a team together."