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$5m Vegas prize for Wheldon's eyes only

Dan Wheldon will be alone in racing for $5m at the season finale in Las Vegas, half for himself and half for a fan, after IndyCar unveiled a revised format for the challenge.
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has revealed that one driver and one only will be racing for a shot at a $5m prize at the season finale at Las Vegas - and that it will be Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon.

"IZOD IndyCar Series and Go Daddy are very proud to announce that we will give the $5 million challenge to our Indy 500 winner, Dan Wheldon," said Benard at a press conference on Wednesday. He added that there were a couple of conditions: "First, you have to start very last of this 30-plus car field. And [second], you have to win the race!"

Just as he did at Indianapolis in May, Wheldon will be driving a car provided by Bryan Herta Autosport in association with Sam Schmidt Motorsports. It'll be the first time Wheldon had been back in a race since his dramatic last corner victory at the Indy 500 in May that saw race leader JR Hildebrand crash out just yards from the finish line.

"I've been just desperate, period, to get back in a race car since Indianapolis," said Wheldon, who would split the prize money with a fan to be selected via a prize sweepstake. "I want to thank Randy for the opportunity, but also thank Randy for what he's done for the IndyCar Series to date."

Asked if he had a realistic chance of coming from the back of the grid, Wheldon admitted: "It's certainly going to be harder to come to the front than in recent years. I think when you consider the talent level of the grid, I think quite honestly, it far outweighs NASCAR, ALMS, whatever it might be. It's incredible right now."

But Wheldon insisted that he was most definitely in it to win it: "I hope you know me well enough to know the answer to that. I'm going to be going for it, I can assure you. It doesn't take $5 million for me to do that," he said. "Obviously when you're out there you'll give respect to all the other drivers out there, but at the end of the day, I'm there to win, and I'm going to do everything in my power to do so, but respectfully."

The original format of the $5m Vegas challenge was to lure up to five star drivers from other series to come to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October and see if they could upstage the regulars, and Bernard explained why those original plans had needed to be changed.

"We had two dozen inquiries about the opportunity, we had six sign up with applications, and we had many others call and inquire about it. But the only three that we felt had a serious opportunity ... were Travis Pastrana, Alex Zanardi and Kasey Kahne," he revealed.

"Alex only wanted to drive for Chip [Ganassi]; Kasey Kahne preferred to drive for Roger Penske," but with the IndyCar championship on a knife edge between the two teams neither would agree to running an extra car in what could turn out to be the title-deciding race. "They felt it would distract them from going on with this type of challenge - and of course, we understand that 100 percent."




Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Randy Bernard at the announcement of the GoDaddy.com IndyCar Challenge. [Photo Credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon at the announcement of the GoDaddy.com IndyCar Chellange. [Photo Credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
Dan Wheldon at the announcement of the GoDaddy.com IndyCar Challenge. [Photo Credit: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media]
The track layout for the 2016 Grand Prix of Boston. (Illustration courtesy IndyCar Media)
The track layout for the 2016 Grand Prix of Boston. (Illustration courtesy IndyCar Media)
The track layout for the 2016 Grand Prix of Boston. (Illustration courtesy IndyCar Media)
Will Power, Mark Miles and Derrick Walker announce the addition of Boston to the 2016 IndyCar Series itinerary. (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
#GetWellSoonHinch on scoring pylon at IMS -- Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media
Marco Andretti and Sage Karam at IMS (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Walter Kuhn)
James Hinchcliffe during practice prior to Qualifying for the 99th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race (Photo by: Leigh Spargur)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Mike Harding)
James Hinchcliffe at IMS (Photo by: Jim Haines)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start on the outside of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pagenaud will be joined in the front row by by polestar Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest for the May 24 race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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Brad Dill - Unregistered

September 14, 2011 1:24 PM

It's not a Barnhardt idea. It's Randy Bernard's idea. And they weren't going to just "jump in from other championships". If selected, drivers would have been given practice time on other Indy Car ovals. Two drivers wanted specific teams Penske and Ganassi to back them. Those teams are in the title chase and don't want the extra car. The other driver broke his leg in the X games. If done in the future it can be improved upon, but it's not as lame as you try to make it out to be Martin.



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