Miles “excited to see what comes” from IndyCar’s exhibition at Thermal

Miles “excited to see what comes” from IndyCar’s exhibition at Thermal

A variety of unique elements have been blended into this weekend’s non-points race – a first for IndyCar since 2008 (Surfers Paradise, Australia) – at the 17-turn, 3.067-mile circuit located just outside of Palm Springs, California.

For one, it is a made-for-TV event that will be broadcast Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC, Peacock and the IndyCar Radio Network. There will also be two days of testing prior that will consist of nine hours in total and be streamed on Peacock.

While there will be limited fans in attendance, the majority of that contingent will be the wealthy club members; and there has been no secret in the aim to attract more of them to get involved in the series in some capacity, similar to Don Cusick, a partner in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing’s Indianapolis 500 efforts.

Along with that, the massive $1.756 million purse is the largest for an IndyCar Series race outside of the Indianapolis 500. The winner of Sunday’s 20-lap sprint race will take home $500,000, while the runner-up receives $350,000, third place $250,000 and fourth place $100,000. Fifth place will receive $50,000 with all other participants getting $23,000.

A field of 27 cars will be split into two groups to determine the starting grid for two heat races Sunday, with the top six finishers in each heat advancing to the final, which will feature two 10-lap segments. This will mark the first time since 2013 (Iowa Speedway) IndyCar has held heat races during an event.

“My take would be we don’t know exactly what will be harvested from it, but as Don has said, others have said, it’s a great connection to the members, which we’ll see what comes of that,” Miles said, during a media availability on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s on national television, so we have a chance to get maybe some new eyes looking at IndyCar that might not have absent the kind of unique format for this.

“I think people want to see us innovate. To do it in this way without the points on the line to us made sense. We’re excited to see what comes of it.”

The facility, founded and owned by Tim Rogers and managed by his son, John Rogers, also hosted the IndyCar Series for a two-day Open Test ahead of the 2023 season.

The tricky thing to gauge is what the determining factor of this being a success or not is for Miles and the rest of IndyCar’s leadership.

“I think we will have our ear to the ground with our key stakeholders,” Miles said.

“First of all, I think the Rogers have to like it. It has to be a good experience for them as the owners of the club, and I’m sure that the club members’ attitudes will be reflected in Tim Rogers’ attitude. That’s an important fundamental thing.

“I think we’ll see how fans react. And you know, because you do it all the time, that you’ll have a good sense from social media on the fan reaction to the racing.

“There will be some of our sponsors out there. Teams obviously. Team owners will be out there. We’ll just take everybody’s temperature after the fact.

“Listen, I just know the temperature is really in a good place after the test last year. People really enjoyed being there.”

When asked by about the possibilities that exist if this is indeed becomes a successful event for all parties involved, noting the chances of it becoming a points race or increasing attendance to the general public, Miles remained non-committal.

“The scenario you hypothesize, we hope accurately, was that this is phenomenally successful this weekend,” Miles said.

“I hope that’s the case. Kind of expect that to be the case.

“Then we’ll just sit down and work through it. The last part of your question was sort of about the gate, the crowd. We really have to do some thinking about that. The club wasn’t built for, pick a number, 20,000 spectators at an event.

“What we do know is that the paddock, the teams, and the drivers love it, so I think there will be interest in being there. Exactly in what form going forward is something we have to analyze and discuss amongst ourselves and with the Rogers and perhaps input from the members after this weekend.”

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