The IZOD IndyCar Series has posted a US$5million (£3.1m) prize for any driver outside the championship who enters and wins its Las Vegas season-closer. The bonus money was announced on Wednesday in company with IndyCar’s confirmation that the Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the final race on October 16.
“We showcase our drivers as being the very best, fastest and most versatile in the world, and we’re putting our money where our mouth is,” said IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard. “If any race car driver outside IndyCar can win the Vegas race, we will give you $5m. We’ll accept five entries for this challenge, with entrants being determined by mid-summer.”
The IRL raced at Las Vegas from 1996-2000 and Champ Car from 2004-05. The return to Las Vegas is part of Bernard’s new partnership with Bruton Smith, boss of SMI and owner of nine major American race tracks. Four of Smith’s tracks – the Texas Motor Speedway, Infineon Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Las Vegas – will stage IndyCar races this year.
“I said at the IndyCar State of the Sport in mid-January that we must give our fans a great experience with three primary elements – great entertainment, competition and value,” said Bernard (below). “There is not a city in the world that can provide entertainment like Las Vegas. The Motor Speedway will provide some of the fastest and most exciting racing fans will see anywhere, and the ticket promotion is true value. This is a time when IndyCar can tell our fans that we thank them for their support.”
Bernard also announced IndyCar’s television schedule this week. Five of the 17 races will be broadcast on ABC, with the remaining 12 on the much smaller Versus network.
So will anyone take IndyCar up on its Las Vegas bonus? Formula 1 and NASCAR’s top drivers are tied up contractually and unlikely to be available to race at Las Vegas, so it might provide a chance for an up-and-coming driver from a lower formula. But they will require plenty of testing to be competitive because oval races are all about set-up and experience. To be successful any such driver will surely need to race for either Ganassi or Penske and do some serious testing.
Is IndyCar’s $5m bonus a brilliant promotional tool or a gimmick that’s sure to fail? What do you think?