Raising the Stakes
When INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard confirmed the final date of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar on Tuesday, no one expected the teaser that came with it.
Taking place on Sunday October 16th at Las Vegas motor Speedway, any non-IndyCar professional that runs in the race will be eligible for a $5 million jackpot should they beat the series regulars.
There are limitations of course – only five spots are open, but it is an intriguing offer from the Series as it continues to rebuild and fix its shattered reputation.
Whether any drivers of note partake will be a different matter. Quite obviously, no Formula 1 drivers will be there (they’ll be in Korea for a start), while the stars NASCAR might also give it little heed. For the Sprint Cup Series, the Las Vegas IndyCar race falls toward the tail end of the Chase, making it highly unlikely that a top driver would even consider the move.
That pretty much leaves competitors outside the Chase or NASCAR Nationwide drivers – neither of which may bring much in the way of significant attention, unless recent Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne wishes to make the plunge.
The likes of sportscar racers from ALMS or Grand-Am could have a go, but it is yet again unlikely that any of their stars would garner the traction that Randy Bernard seeks.
Another piece of solid news for the Las Vegas event was the revelation of the ticketing structure for the event. Limited to the first 80,000 applicants, any fan that ventured to any of the previous sixteen events this year can apply for a free ticket to the season finale. It is a very interesting idea that has the potential the potential to offer the closer the crowds it deserves, especially when compared to the derisory numbers that attended the previous two finales at Homestead Miami Speedway.
With additional sponsors climbing onboard for both Sarah Fisher Racing and Ryan Hunter-Reay’s Andretti-Autosport effort, this has been an incredibly bright week for INDYCAR …or it was until very early yesterday morning.
Sat silent during the night, it was announced that the highly anticipated partnership between 2004 IRL Champion, Tony Kanaan, and the Gil de Ferran/Jay Penske owned De Ferran/Dragon Racing had collapsed due to a lack of sponsorship. It is an indication, that as much as the IndyCar Series is piecing itself together, there are still gaping holes in the walls that need to be tended to.
Kanaan joins his former Andretti-Green team mate Dan Wheldon as a driver without a ride coming into the season. Wheldon is also a former Champion, having taken both the Series and the Indianapolis 500 in the year following Kanaan’s success. What makes it even more surprising is that both drivers have had reasonable – if minor – success in recent seasons, with Kanaan being only of two non-Chip Ganassi / Penske drivers to win last year, while Wheldon has outdriven his then Panther Racing Dallara to two 2nd places in the Indy 500 both last year and in 2009.
For all the good news, it is probably best to view these announcements with a wise eye, though while things improve on one side of the IndyCar banner, it is clear that not all is well if two recent series champions and an Indy500 winner sit solemnly on the sidelines.
Such talent should not be allowed to lay in a state of waste.