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Tony George says he declined staying as IRL chief

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Indy Racing League president and CEO Tony George says he rejected a request to remain because it would have created an "unnecessary" layer of bureaucracy between the IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The first public comments, posted on the Web site of the Vision Racing IRL team George owns, came a week after the dramatic change in leadership for both the IRL and the speedway, for which George had been the chief.

Speedway board chairman Mari Hulman George, Tony George’s mother, announced the move, saying it was in the best interests of everyone that her son concentrate his efforts on the IRL, primarily as a team owner. The move put longtime IMS executive W. Curtis Brighton in charge of Hulman & Co. and elevated Jeffrey G. Belskus to president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp.

George said it would not be productive to have him leading the IRL while reporting to Belskus.

"In my view, this would have created an unnecessary bureaucratic layer between the people in the operations of the IRL and the CEO of IMS that had not previously existed," George said in the Web posting. "I did not feel that a subordinate position as ‘CEO of the IRL’ was a management vehicle which would allow me to accomplish the objectives that the family and the board requested me to pursue. I declined."

George was the speedway’s president for 20 years and formed the IRL in 1994. He has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past 13 years to make track renovations and help the IRL, originally founded as an oval track-based rival to the open-wheel CART series.

"I have offered my advice to the board on management reorganization, but also and perhaps more importantly, a reorganization of our board, which would provide a structure for better governance for generations to come," he said.

The Hulman-George family has run the speedway, home of the Indianapolis 500, for six decades and also owns the IRL and Clabber Girl, a baking-powder company based in Terre Haute, Indiana.

George said he has been assured by his mother that no reduction in support for the Indianapolis 500 or the IRL was anticipated. Still, the speedway and IndyCar Series have lately been cutting back. Over the past six months, about 60 staff jobs were eliminated.

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