AUSTIN, Texas – The stakes have been raised in the NTT IndyCar Series for this weekend’s INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas.
One of the 24 drivers entered will take home a $100,000 bonus from the track if he can win the NTT P1 Award pole position on Saturday and follow that up with a race win on Sunday.
“In September, we all kind of got together and started talking about how to make this race really special,” Rick Abbott, executive vice president of Circuit of The Americas, explained Thursday in a news conference featuring nine drivers who will line up Sunday for the first NTT IndyCar Series event at the state-of-the-art road course.
“It was important for us to kind of distinguish ourselves a little bit away from everybody else, and we thought, you know, do something bigger – that's always bigger in Texas, something that's very cool and kind of like something new. And how do we make that makes the qualifying even more exciting.
“So we came up with the idea that if you win the pole on Saturday and win the race, we're going to give you $100,000.”
It was an idea applauded by the drivers in attendance: Marco Andretti, Max Chilton, Marcus Ericsson, Kyle Kaiser, Matheus Leist, Josef Newgarden Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi and Patricio O’Ward.
Rossi, driver of the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda for Andretti Autosport, spoke for the drivers in thanking Abbott and COTA chairman Bobby Epstein for the bonus.
“That's very generous,” Rossi said, “so obviously we have a huge incentive to go and do that as it is. But that makes it very exciting, and I'm sure that some guys will commit pretty heavily to trying to make that happen.”
Andretti, pilot of the No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport with Marco & Curb-Agajanian, is aware of the challenges that await on the 3.41-mile, 20-turn circuit.
“I'm looking forward to it,” Andretti said. “This is one of the most challenging tracks I've ever run at. I think it really challenges me and pushes me as a driver. I was talking to (retired driver and Chip Ganassi Racing driver coach) Dario Franchitti. It's not necessarily a Marco Andretti track because of how smooth you have to be, and so that's what I'm really working on, my styles and studying and my teammates' data and everything.
“There's a lot of different sectors and a lot of different ways you have to drive this place to be fast, and a lot of chances to screw it up as well. It's really fun and it keeps you on your game, so looking forward to it.”
Ericsson, driver of the No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Honda, enters the weekend as an NTT IndyCar Series rookie but has the experience of four Formula One starts at COTA, including a 10th-place finish last year.
“It's one of the best tracks on F1 and I think it's great we are going here with INDYCAR,” Ericsson said.
“It's going to be a great weekend. Racing should be very good. It's already good on F1 on this track and from what I've done on IndyCar, it's going to be a really good show from everyone and I'm really looking forward to it.”
The INDYCAR Classic weekend at COTA begins with three practices on Friday, starting at 11:15 a.m., 3:05 p.m. and 4:10 p.m. ET. A fourth practice is set for 11 a.m. Saturday. All practices stream live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold.
NTT P1 Award qualifying to determine the pole sitter and the starting grid airs live at 3 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com, the NBC Sports app and INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. Coverage of the first NTT IndyCar Series race at Circuit of The Americas begins at 1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.
Tickets for the race weekend are available on the COTA website.