The Frontstretch: No Bull: IndyCar and Their Five Million Dollars. Will Anyone Take The Bait? by Nick Bromberg -- Monday February 28, 2011

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Anyone willing to give me a ride for the Izod IndyCar Series season finale?

Will dangling a whole lot of money bring in the competitors for IndyCar? Will anything?

The series is proposing a five million dollar bonus to any non-IndyCar regular driver who wins the IZOD IndyCar World Championships race at Las Vegas. While this bonus may be a little more feasible than the 20 million dollar bonus proposed to the driver that wins both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day, that’s not saying much.

The timing of the finale makes it almost impossible for any seasoned driver to come in and legitimately compete for that five million, something that I’m sure IndyCar executives thought of when they unveiled the proposition.

Vegas lands on October 16, the same weekend of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte, so the travel and the time zone difference takes Tony Stewart and Juan Pablo Montoya out of the picture. AJ Allmendinger sounded intrigued at Phoenix, and while there’s a possibility that he could turn that intrigue into reality if he’s not in the Chase, the likelihood of that happening is pretty small.

Formula 1 runs in South Korea that weekend, and besides, you really think that Lewis Hamilton would even consider driving an IndyCar for a measly five mil? That’s insane.

So who’s left? Well, the current economic climate in the IndyCar Series has made for some interesting possibilities.

Former series champion Tony Kanaan and de Ferran Dragon Racing parted ways last week because Kanaan couldn’t bring the level of funding that he promised to the team. Yes, even former champions aren’t immune to the buy-your-ride culture that the current economy has created. The same goes for Dan Wheldon, the guy who won the championship for Andretti the year after Kanaan took it. Wheldon hasn’t been linked to any full-time rides in the series, partially because there are none to be had without that dang sponsorship. Former Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran, the president of de Ferran Dragon, said that the team would most likely not run in 2011 because of the sponsorship gap that Kanaan couldn’t bridge.

Technically, Kanaan and Wheldon won’t be full-time participants of the IndyCar Series barring anything major before the first race of the season March 27, but IndyCar officials haven’t announced the offical rules for the bonus. It’d be a serious doubt if Kanaan and Wheldon were allowed to compete because in good equipment, they’d be real threats to win.

And besides, while it could be slightly shady to prevent the two from racing if they didn’t have rides for 2011, does anyone outside of a normal IndyCar fan care if Kanaan and Wheldon come back to race for the money?

That bonus is begging for a big name, but unless Michael Andretti comes out of retirement to run Vegas, this looks like a lot more hype than substance.

But wait, Milka Duno is running ARCA this year. Maybe she can be the spark that IndyCar needs.

Contact Nick Bromberg

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03/01/2011 01:25 PM

Robby Gordon?

03/01/2011 05:46 PM

Sam Hornish Jr Drives for Penske in NASCAR. I’m sure he could jump back into a Penske IRL ride for a shot at $5mil.

03/01/2011 09:58 PM

Hornish would be a possibility, but only if he doesn’t get more funding for his NWS ride. I think he has funding for 12 races or so, so he may be out of a ride come october. Otherwise, it would be impossible, considering that NWS races the same day that IRL and in Charlotte, like Cup.

03/01/2011 10:17 PM

Really? You can write an article about this topic without even mentioning Robby Gordon? I realize he’s not popular here on the Frontstretch, but pretending he doesn’t exist is just absurd.