Events surround IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Planning and programming logistics for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda in Las Vegas have been ongoing for seven months, and on- and off-track elements have been incorporated into a week-long festival of speed and entertainment.
Now, it's showtime.
In conceptualizing the composite event, INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard sought to engage visitors, race ticket-buyers and residents of Nevada and neighboring states by complementing the IZOD IndyCar Series championship-deciding race Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with complimentary entertainment away from the racetrack. Vegas was the first -- and only -- choice.
"Las Vegas is an entertaining city and when you put on a great event like the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships and you have two men fighting it out for the championship with Will (Power) and Dario (Franchitti), I think it's important for us to make sure that we give everything we can to our fans," Bernard said. "There will be a lot of activities and a lot of different opportunities to mingle with the drivers during the week.
"It's my job to make them bigger stars; we've said that from day one. We're not only creating storylines, we're letting them mingle with who is buying those tickets and I think that is essential."
The first public event is an autograph/photo session with all 34 IZOD IndyCar Series drivers - and maybe even a few surprise guests - at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at Macy's at the Fashion Show Mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. Also that evening is the Graham Rahal Race for Research karting event at Pole Position Raceway.
Following practice at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 13 is the IZOD IndyCar Series Parade Presented by Verizon Wireless on Las Vegas Boulevard. This isn't a run-of-the-mill car transporter lap but the stars of the IZOD IndyCar Series behind the wheel of the car they'll be driving in the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Presented by Honda three days later in the championship-deciding race on the 1.5-mile oval.
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers, plus Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford, will be introduced about 7:30 p.m. as the cars are staged in front of the Bellagio Hotel & Casino. The best viewing of the parade will be between the Monte Carlo and Flamingo hotels.
Following the parade, fans with a race day ticket are invited to join drivers and other celebs for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships Kickoff Party Presented by Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka at Wet Republic at the MGM Grand Resort & Casino.
"This might be first time ever in prime time (city officials have closed The Strip)," Bernard noted. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's going to be a big production with introductions in front of the Bellagio fountains. It will be a fun event, and then we go straight to the Wet Republic at the MGM Grand and we have a big kickoff party."
Practice and qualifications for IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights is Oct. 14 - a full day of on-track activity - followed by the INDYCAR Charity Blackjack Tournament presented by AirMed at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino with some stunning Ritmo Mundo timepieces as prizes and an all-star list of celebrity participants from the sports and entertainment worlds.
Throughout the week, the Fan Zone will be at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, featuring meet & greets (Arie Luyendyk at 6 p.m. Oct. 13 for example), concerts (Licorice Pizza at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 and Good Charlotte at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 15 on the Verizon Stage) and interactive displays for all ages.
The IZOD IndyCar Series title contenders and Go Daddy INDYCAR Challenge driver Dan Wheldon will participate in an Ortsbo Live & Global chat at 10 a.m. Oct. 15. It's a reprise of the successful event at Infineon Raceway in August in which fans around the world can submit questions in their native language (Ortsbo translates 53 different languages) and watch at www.liveandglobal.com.
The INDYCAR Fan Village moves up I-15 to the speedway Oct. 16.
"We think it's convenient for the fans. If you go to Vegas you definitely want to travel out to the track on race day, so why not bring it to the hub?" Bernard said. "What's important is Las Vegas is a partner, the MGM Grand Resorts is a partner. Mandalay Bay has been a great partner. It brings in more foot traffic and overall it helps us create a successful event."
Race week culminates at the speedway Oct. 16 with the Firestone Indy Lights race at 9:45 a.m. followed by a public IZOD IndyCar Series drivers meeting. A complimentary concert by Los Lonely Boys at 11:15 on the Neon Garage Stage sets the stage for the 200-lap IZOD IndyCar Series race. The 82nd Airborne All-American Chorus will perform the national anthem.
"We'll have a drivers meeting that everyone will be able to watch on the big screens and then go into a concert by Los Lonely Boys right into the introduction of the drivers and then right into what everyone has been waiting for the IZOD INDYCAR World Championships," Bernard said.
Spectators will be invited to celebrate with the IZOD IndyCar Series champion in the Neon Garage Victory Circle.
But the party atmosphere doesn't end there. At 6:30 p.m. at the House of Blues is the Concert to Beat Paralysis presented by William Rast to benefit the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation at the Mandalay Bay featuring The English Beat.
On Oct. 17 is the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's Racing to Recovery Golf Tournament presented by IZOD at Southern Highlands Golf Club, and for the first time the public is invited to attend the INDYCAR Championship Celebration at the Mandalay Bay .
Bernard likens the week-long event to a snowball rolling downhill.
"We have great partners. Everyone has stepped up and sees the value in this and wants to see a great event," he said. "I think this is an event that will grow and grow. The city will be alive. It's going to be a fun event."