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IndyCar's season to end in Las Vegas -- with a $5-million twist

February 22, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Ryan

The IZOD IndyCar Series, as expected, said Tuesday that it plans to end its 17-race season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.

But IndyCar, which lags NASCAR stock car racing in popularity, threw in a promotional twist that wasn't expected: a $5-million prize for any professional race car driver outside of the IndyCar series who wins the race.

"We showcase our drivers as being the very best, fastest and most versatile in the world, and we are putting our money where our mouth is," IndyCar Chief Executive Randy Bernard said in a statement. The series said it would accept up to five drivers for the challenge.

IndyCar -- whose drivers include reigning champion Dario Franchitti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick -- had been expected to finish its season at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas oval, but the deal wasn't formally announced until Tuesday.

The series also said any fans buying tickets to any IndyCar race earlier this season would be eligible for a complementary ticket to the Las Vegas finale.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers racing this weekend in Phoenix no doubt will be asked about the $5-million challenge, because they likely could be in Las Vegas in time to compete. The Cup series race that weekend is Saturday night, Oct. 15.

The IndyCar Series opens March 27 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and its third race is the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the city's seaside streets April 17.

-- Jim Peltz

Photo: IndyCar driver Ryan Hunter-Reay rounds a corner on his way to winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 10, 2010. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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