INDYCAR Set for Historic, Innovative Showcase at The Thermal Club

One of the most unique race weekends in the history of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will take place March 22-24 at the picturesque The Thermal Club near Palm Springs, California.

Located at the base of the Santa Rosa Mountains, just down the road from the world’s premier entertainment market of Los Angeles, The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge event weekend includes a crucial two-day Open Test, group qualifying sessions, two heat races and a 12-car “all-star” race with $1.756 million at stake – the largest purse for an INDYCAR SERIES race outside of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES non-points paying The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge is the first non-championship INDYCAR SERIES race since the Nikon Indy 300 in 2008 at Surfers Paradise, Australia.

The Thermal Club also is opening its gates to a few thousand guests as it hosts a public event for the first time. Spectators will include members of The Thermal Club – a private, world-class facility featuring an expansive 490-acre property known as the ultimate destination for driving-minded celebrities, corporate executives and motorsports enthusiasts.

“This will be an incredible new event for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President & CEO Mark Miles said. “The unique format and record-setting purse will bring extra energy and drama to a competition set against a scenic and compelling backdrop. We can’t wait for viewers across the country to tune in on NBC and look forward to an amazing weekend with Tim Rogers and his team at The Thermal Club.”

At a draw party, Thursday, March 21, The Thermal Club members will be paired with the 27 full-time teams scheduled to test and compete Friday, March 22-Sunday, March 24. Members will be embedded with their respective teams with immersive integration, including – but not limited to – team meetings, driver question-and-answer sessions, racecraft instruction and tips, and use of premium, authentic race team gear. A previously announced sharing of total prize money between paired members and drivers who finish in the top five will not occur but will not impact the purse total for drivers and teams.

Announced earlier, the total driver and team portion of prize money for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge:

Total: $1.756 million (Largest purse in INDYCAR SERIES history outside of Indy 500)
    First Place: $500,000
    Second Place: $350,000
    Third Place: $250,000
    Fourth Place: $100,000
    Fifth Place: $50,000
    Sixth through 27th Place: $23,000 each

“The Thermal Club will be a phenomenal setting for the paddock, and a record purse only adds to how special this weekend will be,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “It is a unique and challenging knockout format that will test the drivers and teams in new ways and bring out the best of both. The facility was a perfect backdrop for the Open Test last year, and we look forward to adding this layer of excitement and competition.”

The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge Qualifying

The Thursday, March 21 draw party also will include a random draw to divide the field into two groups. Each group for qualifying, which starts at 8 p.m. ET Saturday, March 23, receives a 12-minute qualifying session on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout to determine the starting order of their respective heat race the following day.

For the first time in a NTT INDYCAR SERIES qualifying session, push-to-pass will be available to the drivers, with each driver receiving 40 seconds.

Timing of the session begins at the declaration of the green flag, with timing stopping at the first red flag condition for each group but not for subsequent red conditions.

The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge Heat Races

Two NTT INDYCAR SERIES heat races at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, March 24 will determine the 12-car field for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge. It is the first time since 2013 (Iowa Speedway) that heat racing has been featured in the INDYCAR SERIES.

Each heat race will consist of 10 laps or be timed at 20 minutes. Laps under full course yellow will not count; however, the race clock will continue. A lap is deemed complete when the leader crosses the start-finish line. The cars’ position on track will be determined by the last timeline crossed on track at the moment of the full course yellow condition.

A new set of Firestone Firehawk tires will be allotted for the heat races. Pit stops for emergency service only will be allowed. Tires used during qualifying will be the only approved replacement tire(s) and must be approved by INDYCAR. A car making an adjustment not deemed emergency in nature will be disqualified.

As in qualifying, cars will receive 40 seconds of push-to-pass in each race.

The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge

The top six advancing cars from each heat race will make up the 12-car field for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge. The pole position and odd number starting positions are determined by the heat race winner, with the fastest time from qualifications occupying the pole and the remainder of that heat race line up in positions 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.

The final will consist of 20 laps divided into two 10-lap sprint segments with a 10-minute “halftime” break following the completion of Lap 10.

During the break, all cars will return to their pit boxes and only allowed to:

Add Shell 100% Renewable Race Fuel
Adjust front and rear wing angles and wickers
Adjust tire pressure
Attend to the driver

All rules from the heat races will apply except:

A time limit shall not apply.
40 seconds of push-to-pass will be reset after the “halftime” break.
During the second 10-lap segment, should a full course yellow occur, the cars’ actual position on track will determine the restart lineup.
Tires used during the heat race will be the replacement tire for the final, if needed and approved by INDYCAR.

Additional rules of The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge are available here.

Peacock will provide coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Open Test from The Thermal Club from noon-2 p.m. ET and 5-8 p.m. Friday, March 22. The INDYCAR Radio Network will supplement Peacock with Open Test coverage from noon-2 p.m. ET and 4-6 p.m. Saturday, March 23, followed by coverage of The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge qualifying beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

Coverage of The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge begins at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, March 24 on NBC broadcast television, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

NTT IndyCar Series PR