SBD/March 4, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

IndyCar's Bernard Already Fielding Multiple Inquiries About $5M Challenge

Bernard hopes this year's season finale generates more interest than last season's
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said he has had "15 inquiries and some agents from some pretty big drivers ... wanting information" about the $5M bonus that will be given to a non-IndyCar driver who wins the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, according to Bruce Martin of SI.com. Bernard said, "It's been well-versed -- a little bit of everything. A couple of drag racers have said they would want to try it. It's our job to make IndyCar top of mind. I want to make sure our strategy is very well designed." He added he is "trying to bring the credibility of our sport -- just as hard as it is for Juan Montoya and Sam Hornish and others to go to NASCAR it's just as hard for NASCAR drivers to come over to our sport." However, the "only NASCAR driver so far who expressed interest" is former Champ Car Series driver A.J. Allmendinger. Several NASCAR drivers last week indicated they "found the challenge intriguing," but they said that "logistics would be a major issue." Martin wrote awarding a non-IndyCar driver the "largest race winning check in motorsports history" would "certainly overshadow the IndyCar season champion." But Bernard "doesn't see it that way." Bernard: "What is worse is last year. We were the best-kept secret in sports last year when no one saw such a phenomenal race and Dario Franchitti win the championship. Would I rather have a way to drive our ratings up? Our storyline will not change on our network show. It will have an emphasis on the World Championship but it will focus on our drivers battling for the Izod IndyCar Series crown" (SI.com, 3/3).

PLENTY OF VACANCIES: In Indianapolis, Curt Cavin notes "at least five" IndyCar teams are "looking to fill seats, and the list of high-quality drivers scrambling to be in them makes this an unprecedented preparation period in the series' history." As of Thursday, "former open-wheel series champions Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon and Sebastian Bourdais still were without deals." Also available are Bertrand Baguette, Raphael Matos, Tomas Scheckter and Davey Hamilton, "who seeks a part-time ride." Kanaan, "who has Brazilian sponsorship for a partial program, has talked to several teams, including Dale Coyne Racing and KV Racing Technology." Cavin notes the "problem for many is a lack of funding." However, one driver "secured Thursday was Ana Beatriz," who will "drive the No. 24 car of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 3/4).
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