IZOD IndyCar Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for season closer
The IZOD IndyCar Series finally made it official: the season closer for the 2011 campaign takes place at the 1.5-mile high-banked Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval on Sunday, October 16th. But in a new twist, CEO Randy Bernard is making it extremely easy for fans to get a free ride to Sin City to witness the finale: fans purchasing a ticket to any 2011 IndyCar Series race gets a complimentary ticket to the championship race.
In his State of the Sport address in mid-January, Bernard said, “We must give our fans a great experience with three primary elements: entertainment, competition and value. There is not a city in the world that can provide entertainment like Las Vegas. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will provide some of the fastest and most exciting racing fans will see anywhere and the ticket promotion is true value,” he declared.
But there is more to this story! Bernard announced a $5 million challenge to ANY professional racecar driver not competing in the series that comes to the season finale and wins.
"We showcase our drivers as being the very best, fastest and most versatile in the world," he said, "and we are putting our money where our mouth is. If any racecar driver in the world outside of the IZOD IndyCar Series can win the Vegas race, we will give you $5 million. We will accept five entries for this challenge, with entrants being determined by mid-summer."
The challenge could be plausible for NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, who have a Saturday night date at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It could also work for sports car drivers in both American Le Mans Series and in Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, as both sanctions will have completed their seasons by that time.
The Indy cars competed on the Las Vegas oval from 1996 to 2000, and Champ Car held contests on the same oval in 2004 and 2005. Winners include Al Unser Jr., Sam Schmidt, Arie Luyendyk and Sebastien Bourdais. The racetrack was reconfigured in 2006, so no Indy car driver has complete familiarity with it at this time.
The IndyCar Series did conduct a test with Team Penske and 2010 championship winners Target Chip Ganassi Racing in November of last year. “Its banking and width is similar to Chicagoland Speedway, which has produced some of the most exciting side-by-side racing and closest finishes in the history of the series,” noted Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations.
© 2011 Anne Proffit