Hitting the Apex: Thermal Club $1 Million Challenge

IndyCar is back on track their first non-thermal race in years! ATRL’s Eline Luna takes a look at The Thermal Club this weekend for the $1 Million Challenge.

Eline Luna

March 23, 2024

The 2024 IndyCar season kicked off two weeks ago at St. Petersburg where two-time IndyCar Champion Josef Newgarden took victory. This weekend, the series travels to The Thermal Club for its first non-points race since the Marlboro Challenge held in the CART series in 1992. 

A 20-lap “made-for-TV” race will be run on the Twin Palms layout at the Thermal Club, a gated community located near Palm Springs, California with several race tracks inside. The Twin Palms layout consists of 19 turns with several long straights. The corners provide great variety with several sweeping and tight corners.

Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

Although this is a non-points race, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing on the line. The race has a $1.756 million purse, making it the largest of the series outside of the Indianapolis 500. The winning team walks away with $500,000, while the runner-up receives $350,000. further down the field, third place receives $250,000, fourth $100,000, fifth $50,000, sixth-27th $23,000 each.

 

Weekend Format

There will be four open test sessions on Friday and Saturday which is then followed by qualifying. For Saturday’s qualifying sessions, the field is split into two groups with two 8-minute sessions. The groups will be decided in a random draw which means the groups could be unevenly split with the majority of the front runners in one group. For the first time in IndyCar history, drivers will be given 40 seconds of push-to-pass during qualifying. 

Both groups are classified separately by time serving as the starting grid for the two heat races. Sunday sees two 10-lap (or 20-minute) heat races, any laps run under caution will not count toward the 10-lap count, but the clock will not pause. So if 20 minutes pass before 10 laps are run, the race will also finish. 

Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

The top 6 of each heat race advance to the main race, making it a 12-car field. The pole sitter for the main race will be awarded to whichever heat race winner has set the fastest qualifying time. The drivers who participated in the pole sitter’s headrace will occupy the uneven positions of the grid, while the others will occupy the even spots.

The 20-lap main event will be split into two 10-lap segments, during the break after the first 10 laps teams can refuel but not change tyres. Just like during the heat races, laps run under caution will not count toward the 20 laps, but this race does not have a time limit.

 

Race Information

  • Race Length: 20 Laps | 61.34 Miles
  • Turns: 19
  • Track Length: 3.067 miles (4.82 km)

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eline follows a variety of motorsports from Formula E to IMSA to Nascar to WEC. They hope to study Mechanical Engineering to work in motorsports one day.

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