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Why IndyCar's $1 Million Challenge at Thermal Club Is Such a Big Deal

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What's Behind IndyCar's Made-for-TV Thermal RacePenske Entertainment/James Black
  • The “big” thing about this non-points race is the $1.7 million purse, one of the biggest in IndyCar history.

  • It will be 20 laps on a 3.067-mile road course. Only 12 drivers will participate in the feature.

  • The Thermal Club is a very high-end private community with an initial membership expenditure in the $5 million range.


Here’s perhaps the best way to think about Sunday’s Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge IndyCar exhibition race in the California desert near Palm Springs:

It will be like a PGA Tour tournament played on a pristine golf course surrounded by palatial houses you can’t afford with ticket prices that scorch the wallet.

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The exhibition race, the first in IndyCar since a 2008 visit to Surfers Paradise in Australia, is precisely that—an exhibition. It will be 20 laps on a 3.067-mile road course. Only 12 drivers will participate in the feature, which is expected to be over by the time you gather your beverages and chips and settle into the recliner.

The “big” thing about this non-points race is the $1.7 million purse, one of the biggest in IndyCar history, with about $500,000 going to the winner. The size of that prize has created more than a little talk about how the race will progress, as drivers decide whether to risk expensive machinery in a late-race battle for positions when no series points are available.

First place will pay a lot, but is it enough to put a tire where it might not fit?

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Multi-million dollar homes surround the Thermal Club.Penske Entertainment/Chris Jones