Colton Herta

Don’t be surprised if Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood have a bit more bounce in their step as they head to Southern California later this week with the rest of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge.

Herta and Kirkwood were class winners Saturday evening after a thrilling edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Sebring (Florida) International Raceway.

SEE: Thermal Event Details

Andretti Global driver Herta shared overall and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) victory honors with Louis Deletraz and Jordan Taylor in the No. 40 Acura ARX-06 fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti. Herta’s Andretti Global teammate Kirkwood took the win in the GT Daytona Pro (GTD Pro) class in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 along with teammates Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth.

Herta became just the fourth INDYCAR SERIES driver to win Sebring overall in the last 30 years, joining Ryan Hunter-Reay (2015, 2020), Scott Sharp (2016) and Sebastien Bourdais (2021),

“There's a lot of aspects that are very different,” Herta said, comparing INDYCAR SERIES racing to endurance sports car racing. “I enjoy it so much. I love those kind of midnight stints at the 24 hours, the 3 a.m. stints, really pushing the car when you feel like nobody's there. It's a really cool feeling.

“It's just a different aspect to the INDYCAR stuff. There's so many things that cross over, and there's so many things that don't. You really do become a much more well-rounded racing car driver.”

Herta and Kirkwood will shift mental and physical gears from endurance sports cars to the shortest and perhaps most aggressive event of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season this weekend at The Thermal Club.

Two heat races will set the field for a 12-car all-star race with $1.756 million at stake. The winner will earn $500,000.

Two NTT INDYCAR SERIES heat races at 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday, March 24 (live, NBC, Peacock, INDYCAR Radio Network) will determine the 12-car field for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge. It is the first time since 2013 (Iowa Speedway) that heat racing has been featured in the INDYCAR SERIES.

Each heat race will consist of 10 laps or be timed at 20 minutes. Laps under full course yellow will not count; however, the race clock will continue. The top six advancing cars from each heat race will make up the 12-car field for The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge. The pole position and odd number starting positions are determined by the heat race winner, with the fastest time from qualifications occupying the pole and the remainder of that heat race line up in positions 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.

The final will consist of 20 laps divided into two 10-lap sprint segments with a 10-minute “halftime” break following the completion of Lap 10.

There will be plenty of track time this week for NTT INDYCAR SERIES teams besides qualifying and racing at Thermal.

Five teams and 15 cars are testing Monday, March 18 at Barber Motorsports Park, home of the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix powered by AmFirst on Sunday, April 28. That event is the third points-paying race of the 2024 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season and the last race before the Month of May at Indianapolis.

Teams testing today at Barber at AJ Foyt Racing, Arrow McLaren, Chip Ganassi Racing, Meyer Shank Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Those teams – and all others in the series – will be back on track Friday and Saturday on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile layout at The Thermal Club for an Open Test before The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge qualifying starts Saturday.

Peacock will provide coverage of the Open Test from The Thermal Club from noon-2 p.m. ET and 5-8 p.m. Friday, March 22. The INDYCAR Radio Network and Peacock will offer Open Test coverage from noon-2 p.m. ET and 4-6 p.m. Saturday, March 23, followed by coverage of The Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge qualifying beginning at 8 p.m. ET.