Thermal Club

IndyCar: $1 Million Challenge Thursday Report

Good afternoon from Thermal, California, and the prestigious Thermal Club. Set among the palm trees, the private club is considered a luxurious resort for motorsport enthusiasts. The private motorsports facility, which requires every member to purchase a villa overlooking the circuit, will be taken over by the NTT INDYCAR SERIES this weekend.

The series has created a unique format for this weekend’s racing and a big purse for a non-points race. On Sunday afternoon, the final heat winner will take home $500,000.

AR1 spoke with Graham Rahal, driver of the No 15 Fifth Third Bank entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, this afternoon about the interesting two-day testing and then the qualifying sessions to determine the starting order for the Sunday Heats.


‘I think for my team, there is a variety of things. One is of course winning.  I would love to win the money and stuff.  But when it trickles down to the driver, it is not going to be nearly that much.”

“We really need to improve the #15.  We were testing at Barber earlier this week and I was not pleased with what I had.  I don’t know why because at the end of last year, we had gotten to a zone that I was very confident with my road course car.  I am having personal frustrations with this issue.”

“So, this weekend I am going to focus on vastly and quickly improve my car, with basically two test days and of course the shootout.”

“But we are not losing sight of what this is either.   Yes, it is not a points race. But this is an important race.  There is a lot of money on the line.  There are also a lot of people here who are influential people that could be a big part of the sport.”

“At the end of the day, people who are around this facility here can easily own an IndyCar team, easily sponsor a team, or be a big part of IndyCar Racing.  That could help move the series forward in a big way. Which is really what we need right now,  an injection of new interests from team owners and sponsors.  So I look at this as a great opportunity for all of these things.”

“By the time we get to Sunday, the guys are going to be tired.  Being it is a test, we are going to run a lot.  And the physicality here is high.   I have had other drivers reach out to me asking about steering wheel weights and should I start with reduced castors. ”

“It is already on people’s minds, and that is going to play a role, especially in the high-speed section.  It is all you can take as far as a neck workout.”

AR1 spoke with Marcus Armstrong, the #11 Ridgeline Honda driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, and asked if he felt extra pressure with the long testing sessions and the qualifying format.  For qualifying, the drivers will have 40 seconds of push to pass, which is a first for this series.



“I don’t think there is any pressure on me.  Pressure is for the tires, not for the drivers.”

“There is always a big emphasis on qualifying, for every race.  Obviously, here, it is important because it is difficult to overtake here.  And we will be trying to figure out how we can strategize the 40 seconds of push to pass.  That will be interesting.”

We asked if he liked the push to pass for qualifying, and the young Kiwi replied, “No.”

“There are so many variables.  There could be a red flag after you have blasted all your push to pass and then you won’t have any more for the rest of the session.  I guess that is just luck if you don’t use it before the red flag.”

“If you had unlimited push to pass, that would be a different story.” continued Armstrong with a little smile on his face.

Tomorrow will be a test day with two sessions for all the cars.  The first session is

9-11 am PDT followed by the second session 2 – 5 pm.

Lucille Dust reporting live from Thermal, CA





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