This weekend’s inaugural INDYCAR Classic at Circuit of The Americas will offer the prospect of an extra treat for the NTT IndyCar Series contenders: A $100,000 bonus from the track if the same driver that wins the pole position on Saturday can 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,” explained COTA Executive Vice President Rick Abbott. “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.”
“That’s very generous,” said Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, “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.”
Aside from the money, teammate Marco Andretti said the 3.41-mile, 20-turn circuit offers its own reward for the drivers.
“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.”
Marcus Ericsson enters the weekend as IndyCar rookie but has the experience of four Formula 1 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,” said the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver. “It’s going to be a great weekend. Racing should be very good. It’s already good in F1 on this track and from what I’ve done in 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.