Cusick targets IndyCar entry at Thermal Club [UPDATED]

Indianapolis 500 entrant and Thermal Club resident Don Cusick is working to place Cusick Motorsports on the grid of next March’s $1 Million Challenge at the private road course located in Thermal, California.

The March 22-24 non-championship event presents an opportunity for the NTT IndyCar Series to fill a gap in its calendar between events while giving IndyCar teams and Thermal Club residents a chance to collaborate on a unique competition format where IndyCar drivers in their Chevy- and Honda-powered DW12s will be linked with amateur drivers racing spec BMW M2 CS Racing models.

“I like the format that’s been come up with for this, and we’re having conversations with two IndyCar teams tomorrow about entering a car for us,” Cusick told RACER. “And we’re working on the BMW M2 side and finding an amateur to work with because they’ll do a blind draw and pair those drivers with IndyCar drivers.”


The format for the Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge will see a qualifying session and two heat races which will take the top six finishers from both heats and transfer them into the All-Star Showcase.

In an update from IndyCar, the full process for the Challenge consists of:

    • Qualifying (8:05 p.m. ET – Saturday, March 23) (, IndyCar Radio Network)

    • Based on a random draw dividing the field into two groups, each group receives a 15-minute qualifying session to determine the starting order of their respective heat race the following day.

    • The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge (Noon ET – Sunday, March 24) (NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network)

    • Two NTT IndyCar Series heat races will decide the 12-car field for the $1 Million Challenge. Laps under Full Course Yellow will not count. Pit stops for emergency service only will be allowed.

    • Heat Race 1 (10 Laps)

    • Top six finishers advance to the final

    • Heat Race 2 (10 laps)

    • Top six finishers advance to the final

    • Final (20 laps)

    • The field of 12 cars line up according to their finishing positions in each heat race with the finishing order in Heat Race 1 occupying the odd-number starting positions and the finishing order in Heat 2 occupying the even-numbered starting positions. The first driver to complete 20 laps will be named The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge Champion.

$1 Million Challenge Purse Breakdown

  • 1st Place $1,000,000

  • 2nd Place $700,000

  • 3rd Place $500,000

  • 4th Place $200,000

  • 5th Place $100,000

  • Sixth through 27th place receive $23,000

Provided Cusick is able to strike a deal with an IndyCar team to field an entry, driver Stefan Wilson will make his return to open-wheel racing after suffering a back injury during practice for May’s Indy 500.

“Stefan’s chomping at the bit to get back into a car, and he should be more than ready to go if we can pull everything together for him to drive,” Cusick said.

A limited number of tickets will be made available for the event, and it’s believed members of the IndyCar Nation fan club associated with the series could have first access to purchase the tickets.

“Roger Penske’s executive team and the entire group at Thermal with Tim Rogers and Nick Rhoades have been putting in a bunch of time and effort to make this thing happen,” Cusick said. “We’re really excited to have IndyCar returning to Thermal for something special that hasn’t been done before.”

This story has been updated to include additional information from IndyCar about the event format.

Story originally appeared on Racer