While it might not have come as a surprise to some, the thought of an IZOD IndyCar Series season being contested without the involvement of its rather controversial founder is, for most that follow the sport, nearly impossible to imagine.
Yet that is exactly what has happened.
Tony George, the former CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the grandson of the man many view as its saviour, Anton Hulman, severed his last remaining tie to the Indy Racing League he created in 1994 when he announced late last week that his one-car team, Vision Racing, would be suspending operations.
The decision was made after its primary sponsor for the past two seasons, the Menard’s home improvement chain, chose not to renew the agreement. The team had employed his step-son, Ed Carpenter, as its primary driver since it began racing 2005 with assets acquired from the former Kelley Racing. Vision also campaigned a one-car team in the Firestone Indy Lights developmental series.
According to a report on ESPN.com, approximately 20 employees were laid off, but the search for sponsorship will continue. George said he’s hopeful that the team be able to return, although he did not say when he thought that might occur.
About two weeks before the Vision announcement, George had resigned seats on the board of directors for both IMS and Hulman & Co., his family’s business. He was ousted as president and CEO of both companies last summer by the board of directors that includes his mother, Mari Hulman George, his three sisters and the family’s attorney.
George retained his seat on the board of both companies, however, but declined to stay on as CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series. It has been widely reported that a rift had existed on the board between George and his sisters over how much of the family’s fortune was being spent on track upgrades at IMS and to keep the league afloat during the past 15 years (estimated to be as much as US$500 million).
A new series CEO (rumoured to be former Professional Bull Riders Inc. CEO Randy Bernard) is expected to be named this week. IMS president Jeff Belskus has been in the post since George’s departure.