Respected longtime motorsports executive Derrick Walker will become President of Operations & Competition of INDYCAR, effective May 27, Hulman & Company chief executive officer Mark Miles announced earlier in the week. He most recently served as team manager for Ed Carpenter Racing.
Walker will be responsible for all technical and competition aspects of the racing operations at the open-wheel sanctioning body. His job will be report to Miles in regards to decisions and aspects of the series. Some of his responsibilities will stem to:
•Enhancing innovation within the current technical platform and race formats
•Continuing to emphasize and develop safety initiatives
•Sustaining programs and avenues to develop drivers and suppliers for the IZOD IndyCar Series
•Developing plans for future technical platforms
Beau Barfield, Brian Barnhart and Will Phillips will continue to have their roles within the organization, though will report to Walker. Barfield will be in charge of race control, Barnhart will continue to be in charge of operations with Phillips behind the engineering side.
“I have no doubt that they can be more stitched together as a team,” Miles added. “I think one of the things our organization can improve on across the board is the extent to which we work closely together and communicate better and break down silos and plan a little farther ahead. Without any way meaning to be critical of those folks who we will count on going forward, I think Derrick brings a practical approach that’s so well grounded in the technical aspects of it, that they will be a higher-performing team under his leadership.”
Miles went on to say the decision was made in an effort to straighten IndyCar as an organization.
“It’s a good organization but we’ve got a lot to do, and we decided to bring on the strongest horse we can find to help us with our technical and operations and racing, our product, really, and then separately to find additional leadership to help us with our commercial activities for IndyCar,” Miles explained.
Miles added they considered many people for the role, but Walkers’ resume stood out above the rest with his experience from being a mechanic to owning a team. Walker also says he likes the person behind the resume, in Walkers’ personality of being straightforward and a great common sense.
“He’s got the conviction of his principles and his — we know that he’ll help make clear, firm decisions and have the strength of character to stick by them,” Miles added. “And we’ve talked to a lot of people in the paddock. I know that Derrick’s experience is well regarded as broadly as anybody’s could be in the paddock. So we think there’s a lot to do, and Derrick is the right man to lead us through it.”
Walker wasn’t looking to work for IndyCar, but when the pair got talking about IndyCar and what it represents, one thing led to another and he has the job now.
“Obviously I’ve been around enough to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of the competition sports, but that doesn’t deter me,” Walker added. “I think I’ve had probably a good 20-odd, maybe more, 25 years of Indy car, which has really helped me a great deal, and I feel if I can give something back to the sport in whatever way that is, then I’d love that opportunity.”
In making decisions down the road, Walker says he wants to see innovation as that’s always been part of IndyCar. However, there has to be a balance between innovation, speed and the cost of racing.
“I think if you look at what our goal has to be or should be, is to open up that door just enough to allow it to grow and improve and innovate, but yet keep it in a measurable amount, not only the teams but the manufacturers, every supplier that is involved in our business,” Walker explained. “It doesn’t price them out of the market — we can’t have in the U.S., maybe in other parts of the world it works — but we can’t have such a super-expensive series that the fans can’t afford to come along and buy a ticket. And we’re racing in front of, you know, lots and lots of people that don’t turn up.”