IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard announced today that both the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights would crown both of their champions at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 16th, 2011.
The 1.5-mile, high banked oval seems to be the perfect spot to end season as its known for producing exciting side-by-side racing.
“We had the opportunity to conduct a test with Target Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske at Vegas last November and our cars performed very well at this facility,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for INDYCAR. “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.”
The last time the IndyCar Series competed at Las Vegas was from 1996 to 2000, and Champ Car ran there in 2004 and 2005. Since then, the track has been reconfigured, though. Past drivers who have made it to victory lane include Al Unser Jr., Sam Schmidt, Arie Luyendyk and Sebastian Bourdais.
“Las Vegas is a world-class sports destination, and we are excited to welcome all of the open-wheel racing fans back to Las Vegas,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “Hosting the season finale for the IZOD IndyCar Series is a great partnership for us and we know the fans will enjoy all that Las Vegas has to offer.”
“Las Vegas Motor Speedway has produced thrilling open-wheel races in the past, and the return of the IZOD IndyCar Series for its season-ending event is sure to provide more thrills in October,” added Chris Powell, president of LVMS. “We know there’s a huge fan base of INDYCAR fans in the western United States. Hosting the season finale, and the media attention it generates, gives our speedway and our city another opportunity to showcase so much that Las Vegas has to offer.”
In an attempt to bring forth drivers of different series, Benard also announced that a $5 million challenge to any professional race car driver not competiting in the IZOD IndyCar Series for the finale.
“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 race car 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.”
This follows the bonus that Bernard set forth earlier this year. The bonus was set that Benard would pay a $20 million bonus to the driver who wins both the Indianpolis 500 and the NASCAR Coca Cola 600 on the same day, and perhaps smaller bonuses for any driver winning one race and finishing in the top five of the other.
Jimmie Johnson, the five-time reigning NASCAR champion, has already declined.
“I really, really want to do it,” Johnson said this week during NASCAR’s preseason media tour in Charlotte, N.C. “I’m just not sure if it’s going to work for me. (Chandra, his wife) and I talked about it and (said) if the opportunity came along before we had kids, it was something I needed to do.”
Bernard also added that fans who purchase any ticket throughout the season are eligible to receive a complimentary ticket to the championship race.
“I said at the INDYCAR State of the Sport in mid-January that we must give our fans a great experience with three primary elements — great entertainment, competition and value,” Bernard said. “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. This is a time when INDYCAR can tell our fans that we thank them for their support.”
“In 2010, our first year as the title sponsor, the IZOD brand, together with the league worked aggressively to build awareness and excitement around the series, especially within the major markets, looking for ways to connect with new fans through a host of events and promotions that connected with pop culture.” said Mike Kelly, executive vice president of marketing for the Phillips-Van Heusen corporation, owners of the IZOD brand. “We can’t think of a better place than Las Vegas- one of the greatest entertainment cities in the world – to take these initiatives to new levels and celebrate the 2011 World Championship.”
With the completion of its 17-race schedule, the IZOD IndyCar Series also confirmed its broadcast designations for the season as well as broadcast start times. Five events will be broadcast on ABC – St. Petersburg, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, New Hampshire and Las Vegas. The balance of the schedule will be aired on VERSUS, the IZOD IndyCar Series’ exclusive cable network home.
Tickets to the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships go on sale today through Ticketmaster.com. Full details for the complimentary ticket promotion will be announced March 1st on indycar.com and 866-INDYCAR.