Josef Newgarden, Penske, IndyCar testing, The Thermal Club, 2023

IndyCar to hold $1million pre-season exhibition race at Thermal Club


Posted on

| Written by

IndyCar has announced it will stage a non-championship race at the Thermal Club resort in Palm Springs, California, on 24 March, with a $1 million (£800,000) prize on offer for its winner.

Appropriately named the $1 Million Challenge, this made-for-television exhibition race will feature two days of testing and qualifying from 22-23 March, around the Thermal Club’s 17-turn, 4.9 kilometre Twin Palms course layout, which was used for the official pre-season test this year.

It is the first attempt at an IndyCar all-star race since 1992, when a prominent tobacco company sponsored a post-season invitational race at venues including Nazareth Speedway, Laguna Seca and Miami’s Tamiami Park street circuit. IndyCar has not staged a non-championship round of any kind since the final race at Surfer’s Paradise, Australia, in 2008.

The event format will consist of a qualifying session, and two heat races, with the top six from each heat advancing to the main event. The top five finishers will split their earnings from a multi-million dollar prize purse with select members of the private motorsports resort, determined via a ‘draw party’ staged before the event – with the winner receiving the titular one million dollar prize.

A charitable initiative will be a part of the event, with its specifics to be revealed at a later date.

“The experience the teams had at The Thermal Club was second to none,” said IndyCar president Jay Frye. “We treated it like a preseason scrimmage, and, looking back, it was the perfect launch to this record-breaking season. The facility is spectacular, and we cannot wait to return and showcase IndyCar in a whole new way.”

“We are proud to welcome IndyCar back to The Thermal Club during the 2024 season,” said John Rogers, owner of the Thermal Club. “The teams, drivers and the entire IndyCar Series paddock are true professionals, and we look forward to developing our relationship with them in the future. This marquee racing showcase in March promises to be special for everyone, including spectators, Thermal members and race fans tuning in at home.”

While the event will be developed for television in conjunction with host broadcaster NBC, a limited number of tickets will be made available for fans to watch the race in person. Typically, access to the Thermal Club is restricted only to club members, who pay in excess of $5million in membership costs – most of which is tied to the requirement to buy plots of land and build luxury housing for residence.

A full 2024 season calendar will be announced in the coming days.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Browse all IndyCar articles

Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

8 comments on “IndyCar to hold $1million pre-season exhibition race at Thermal Club”

  1. Wow, that’s fantastic.

  2. If you don’t know the track.

    It’s strange doing it at yhe start of the year as these non championship races were always usually done at the end to not interfere with teams preparation for the start of the year.

    It was always felt doing it at the end was better as teams didn’t have to worry about damage or anything that could hinder there season preparation.

    But i guess when your going to a billionaire club for a race with hardly any real fans able to attend the money will always make common sense go away.

    1. Having it at the end of March plugs the hole in the schedule after the season opener at St Pete.

  3. It is a shame it isn’t more pre-season. They could open it up to drivers from other categories and you might see some F1 drivers interested in taking part. McLaren could run Norris/Piastri for example. Vestappen would probably have a go too as it is not an oval. Make it more like the non-championship events/Invitationals of the past.

  4. f1 take notes and do this at Monaco. One of all star weekend with multiple heats, selected young drivers, former f1 stars, drivers from other forms of Motorsport. Use a GP2 car for everyone so they can actually race.

  5. This should be very interesting! Thermal Club is quite the place.

  6. IndyCar should do this at international venues as well, like Singapore or Spa-Francorchamps.

    1. Similarly, I was thinking they should try to tie this sort of event to something like 24 hours of Rolex or Le Mans, where drivers from different series will already be—and possibly looking for additional time out on the track. Being able to stage it a few weeks before or officially part of the lead-up to those sorts of events would be interesting to me as a fan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.