IndyCar, Thermal Club keen to build upon Open Test success

Jake Galstad/Lumen

IndyCar, Thermal Club keen to build upon Open Test success


IndyCar, Thermal Club keen to build upon Open Test success


The NTT IndyCar Series and the Thermal Club have hailed their first engagement for last week’s Spring Training event as a success.

Held at the private country club and racing facility located 45 minutes south of Palm Springs, the two-day test was a trial run for the series and circuit as both parties consider where the relationship might head in the future. Having never held a professional motor race on its sprawling road course, IndyCar’s appearance at the Thermal Club — even for testing — was a major milestone for the company.

“It was an amazing couple of days,” IndyCar president Jay Frye told RACER. “They was a complete level of professionalism. We had very high expectations going there and we’ve worked with them preparing for the last year almost and saw how they operate and what they do. And again, we had very high expectations, but they exceeded all of them. The staff were phenomenal and everything was extremely well done. Even from the members’ perspective – the Thermal Club members were around the whole time and was great to get to know them; to be around that group. It was just really a great way to launch the season. We couldn’t be more satisfied or pleased.”

Thermal Club managing director John Rogers shared in Frye’s enthusiasm.

“It was good,” Rogers said. “IndyCar knows their stuff; very professional as an organization. All their leadership was fantastic to work with and their drivers and teams. It was great to work with them and our team also enjoyed it. And our members were happy it was there; we had no complaints about it. Everyone who was there, which was majority of members, were very happy that IndyCar was there.”

In the months leading up to Spring Training, Rogers acknowledged an interest in hosting an IndyCar race at the Thermal Club.

“We haven’t met on that yet, but it’s a logical next step,” he said. “But we’re still circling our wagons, making sure it’s good on all sides. All parts of the Thermal team, all parts of IndyCar, all their teams, so when you get down to the nitty gritty, want to make sure we have all our information before we say, ‘Okay, let’s proceed forward.’”

Significant investments in circuit safety and infrastructure to accommodate fans for the first time would be required before an IndyCar race would be possible.

“It’s definitely a hurdle,” Rogers said. “That’s the obstacle that we have to navigate. And there’s lots of lots of little steps in there to make sure we can accomplish meet each little goal, because any one of those can stop things. But it’s not like [IndyCar] doesn’t do this at a bunch of other cities and states, so it’s not magic to get it done.”

Rogers is confident a healthy crowd of sports and entertainment fans who are frequent visitors to the region would be open to an IndyCar race at the Thermal Club.

“I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people go to the Coachella Festival, which is maybe three miles down the road, but we’re also in the neighborhood for the American Express tournament for golf and tennis is the same, another four or five miles down the road from that, so it’s not like there aren’t huge events going on here,” he said.

“So as far as hardcore race followers, I don’t know how many people are going to come out, but there’s a lot of casual fans of sports and events that are out here, or who at least come out to the desert during the winter.”

At a minimum, Frye would like to return for another round of Spring Training ahead of the 2024 championship launch.

“Nothing’s done, and there’s nothing formalized or anything like that, but why would we not want to go back?” he said. “It was a great experience. We were treated extremely well and I think our entire paddock was overwhelmed by the hospitality. It’s the kind of place you want to go to. We haven’t been talking about next year yet, but there would certainly be no downside to doing that again.”