The IZOD IndyCar Series today confirmed the long-assumed news that Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be the venue for the final race of the 2011 calendar on October 16: but in doing so they added a headline-grabbing twist in the process.
"We showcase our drivers as being the very best, fastest and most versatile in the world," said series CEO Randy Bernard, "and we are putting our money where our mouth is. If any race car driver in the world outside of the IZOD IndyCar Series can win the Vegas race, we will give you $5 million."
In offering the prize, the series organisers are seeking to demonstrate why they believe that IndyCar's equal mix of oval and street car events produces the "most demanding championship in motorsports" and consequently the best drivers in the world - or in America, at least - and certainly a match for those stock car drivers over in NASCAR.
"There are a lot of drivers that talk about wanting to race in IndyCar. We believe that the skill set it takes and just the toughness and willpower to get behind the wheel of these cars is pretty amazing," Bernard continued. "Those top drivers are going to expect to have a great team, so they are going to have to talk to the Roger Penskes and the Chip Ganassis and the Michael Andrettis and on down and make sure that they feel that they have a shot of winning this race."
The challenge is particularly aimed at the NASCAR superstars, who will be competing in the Sprint Cup the evening before at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leaving them plenty of time to head on over to the Vegas oval track for Sunday. It may also be enough to lure some familiar names out of retirement, such as Al Unser Jr. and KV Racing Technology-Lotus co-owner Jimmy Vasser, who would be eligible as they are not current IndyCar drivers; but current active F1 drivers will be ruled out as the date clashes with the Korean Grand Prix weekend.
Barnard explained that they would accept up to five outside entries, to be determined by a selection committee mid-summer, and that the Vegas event would be henceforth be promoted as the IZOD IndyCar World Championships. The race will be IndyCar's first return to Vegas since 2000 although Champ Car made use of the speedway in 2004 and 2005.
In a further promotional innovation, IndyCar also announced that any fan who buys a ticket for the other 16 races of the season will be eligible to receive a free ticket to the Vegas race.
"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 said. "Las Vegas 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."
In the US, the ABC television network confirmed that Vegas will be one of the events they show, along with the season opener from St Petersburg, the Indianapolis 500, the Milwaukee Mile and the New Hampshire Motor Speedway; cable channel VERSUS will air the rest. In the UK, Sky Sports has already signed an exclusive deal to carry all the IndyCar races in high definition, although the announcement stopped short of promising that all races would be aired live.
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