by Lynne Huntting
There has been much hype regarding the news that Indycar will pay $5m to a wild card driver who qualifies for and wins the IndyCar season's finale race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Names of potential promoter's option racers have ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Indycar CEO Randy Bernard threw out the first salvo in the challenge last month, and it's drawn attention from drivers far and wide, globally as well as domestically.
The selection committee consists of Bernard, Indycar president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart, Indycar commercial division president Terry Angstadt, three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Johnny Rutherford and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion and current IZOD IndyCar Series driver coach, Al Unser Jr.
As the eligibility criteria has yet to be announced, IndyCar is keeping a tight lid on those who have already thrown their hat in the ring. However, despite its best efforts, unnamed sources have released what is said to be 'a short list' of those drivers/teams under consideration.
There has been some concern by the series regulars that having five wildcard drivers in the mix for the season's finale race could jeopardise a championship run. For the last five years, the championship battle has come down to the last race and, in some cases, the last lap. This will be addressed by the IndyCar Drivers Association, which was formed last August, with the main issue being safety. Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson are the leaders of the pack.
With the driver selections promised for May, the ICDA plans to have a meeting sometime during the Indy 500 weeks, with IndyCar officials and the wild card drivers, who all be guests of IndyCar for as much time as they can spare from their respective race commitments.
Bernard has already said 'we are going to provide ample testing time at Las Vegas for the five selected drivers to make sure, by the time they get to Las Vegas, they are up to speed'. And there will be no limit on private testing on other 1.5-mile ovals such as Texas, Charlotte, Kentucky, Kansas, Chicago, Atlanta or Homestead. However, as they aren't that similar to LVMS, it's not guaranteed that such testing would prove helpful. Can you say 'race simulator'?
It is hoped that with the plethora of what are about to become obsolete Honda Dallara race cars, the wild car driver/teams will have show cars to drum up further interest in the race and, if at all possible, have the show cars ready for display at the Indy 500.
With the Las Vegas race being televised live by ABC
instead of the cable channel Versus
, there will be more world-wide coverage. The UK and Australia get the American feed and for this race will run the full show live. And, in Las Vegas, the bookmakers are already going crazy over the odds.
UNOFFICIAL SHORT LIST
– #0 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing
– #00 with Section Eight Ganassi Racing