SBD/February 23, 2011/Events and Attractions

IndyCar Offers $5M Challenge To Non-Series Drivers For Vegas Finale

IndyCar officials unveil plans for season finale in Las Vegas
The Izod IndyCar Series yesterday announced it will offer a $5M challenge to any driver not competing in the series for its season finale race Oct. 16 in Las Vegas. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said, "We want to see anyone who thinks they're good enough to compete with our drivers. Our drivers are the fastest, most versatile racers in the world and we have to gain credibility for our drivers. There's not a better way than to throw a challenge out like this." The race will be held the day after NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup race in Charlotte. Bernard said he wouldn't speculate as to whether or not any NASCAR driver would participate. Bernard: "We don't want to separate out NASCAR or F1 from any other series in the world. ... It could be someone from rally car who comes in." A selection committee will select the drivers who are allowed to participate. In addition to challenging drivers, the series plans to reward fans who buy tickets to an '11 IndyCar Series race with a free ticket to the season finale. IndyCar plans to sell 40,000-plus tickets and give the rest of the tickets to fans. Phillips-Van Heusen and Izod Exec VP/Marketing Mike Kelly said, "It's an innovative idea to drive awareness and drive traffic." The deal with Las Vegas is a one-year agreement. Bernard said, "By doing a long-term deal, I think we'd be leaving money on the table. I want to prove we can deliver" (Tripp Mickle, SportsBusiness Journal). In Las Vegas, Jeff Wolf notes it is "believed it would be the richest payday in American racing." Bernard said that regular IndyCar drivers "will not be eligible to win" the $5M. Bernard added that "details of the offer haven't been finalized, but it was clear his hope is to attract NASCAR drivers such as Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon and AJ Allmendinger, who all have IndyCar experience" (LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL, 2/23). IndyCar is "promoting this race from within, meaning it is paying its own sanctioning fee and essentially renting the track" from SMI. ABC "will televise the IndyCar race, one of five it will broadcast during the season" (AUTOWEEK.com, 2/22).

WILL INDYCAR STAY IN VEGAS? ESPN.com's Ed Oreovicz noted IndyCar "has had its share of brief affairs" in Las Vegas, and the "question is whether open-wheel racing's latest spin of the Vegas roulette wheel will result in a lasting, mutually profitable relationship." USAC, CART, IRL and Champ Car "all staged races in Vegas over the years." Oreovicz wrote, "Why could returning to Las Vegas be a smart thing for IndyCar? Obviously, it's one of the most prestigious markets in America, and NASCAR and LVMS have proved that racing events can be successful there. Another positive is the fact that Las Vegas will host the Izod IndyCar Series championship finale, which has gone right down to the wire the past five years." It is "reasonable to expect" SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith "will put a massive promotional effort into the event." And with a "much greater level of promotion than in the past, it's not a stretch to conclude that Indy cars will enjoy a far larger audience than they have ever seen before in Las Vegas" (ESPN.com, 2/22).
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