Motorsport News

Thermal Club Needs Some Heat

Scott Mclaughlin Alex Palou And Felix Rosenqvist on the podium at the $1 Million Challenge at The Thermal Club.

One of the most oft-quoted criticisms about INDYCAR is about their lack of experimentation and inability to shake things up. The $1 Million Challenge was their attempt at doing so, and while it was a step in the right direction, there were many ways in which this event was off target.

First, let’s get into how things went right for the NTT IndyCar Series at the Thermal Club. For those attendees willing to pay a premium price to attend, their tickets gave them access to the paddock, with one IndyCar Facebook group admin explaining how drivers were mingling with fans as they went to grab lunch from the food trucks that the track had stationed near the paddock.

The tickets also came with all inclusive food and drinks throughout the weekend, and with numerous shuttles around the facility, nobody had to wait to get ferried where they needed to go.

This event was tailor-made for those able to attend and mingle with the celebrities that also went to see IndyCar’s first non-points race since Surfer’s Paradise in 2008.

And that’s perfectly fine for the limited number of people that were allowed to spectate at the exclusive VIP facility less than a half hour away from Palm Springs. However, there were a lot more things that were a bit less than ideal from an outsider’s perspective.

For someone looking at the event for the first time, the name itself seems to be a bit deceptive. The $1 Million Challenge was originally going to be an event where club members would buy in and be paired up with a driver. The club member that got paired up with the winning driver would take home $500,000 while the winning driver took home $500,000 (of course, that was much less given how contracts work).

That added up to a million dollars, but the member buy-in idea quietly went away, so there was no million dollar total prize for the winner. But the Half-Million Dollar Challenge name didn’t stick, so the meaning shifted to the total purse of over $1.7 million.

The $1.756 Million Challenge? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

The race format seemed to be complicated for those tuning in. Random draws for qualifying groups, a split main event and even confusing disqualification rules offered more questions than answers.

For starters, Pietro Fittipaldi‘s crew did not fill up his fuel tank before the start of the first heat, and therefore was disqualified from participating in the second half of the race. It seemed odd that…

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