Yes, the word driver is singular, and it's the same guy that won the Indianapolis 500 in Dan Wheldon.
Per the parameters of the challenge, five drivers who weren't series regulars would have been eligible to win $5 million if they won the race. Problem is, the IndyCar Series had a tough time finding drivers that could logistically compete in the race, which is the same weekend as the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Bernard admitted he hoped for three other big names to help move the TV needle. But all of those options fell off the table, forcing him to look for a Plan B in Wheldon.
Two-time CART champion Alex Zanardi would only drive for Chip Ganassi. NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne would only drive for Roger Penske. And neither Ganassi nor Penske wanted the distraction as two of their drivers (Dario Franchitti, Ganassi; Will Power, Penske) are battling for the series championship.
Bernard's other top choice, action-sports star Travis Pastrana, intended to compete until breaking his foot in the X Games in late July.
Wheldon's eligible for the prize because the Indianapolis 500 is the only race he's run all season. And since he's a former IndyCar champion as well, the crossover factor that would be in play if Kahne or Pastrana was entered is also negated.
If he wins -- a tough task given that he'll be assigned to start at the rear of the field, which could be over 30 cars -- Wheldon will split the money with a fan to be drawn from a sweepstakes starting Wednesday. (Side note: how bizarre would it be to see Danica Patrick win in her final race as a full-time driver in the IndyCar Series?)
What NASCAR driver would you have liked to see in an IndyCar? Drop us a line in the comments.
- Dan Wheldon
- Las Vegas Motor Speedway
- Roger Penske
- Izod IndyCar Series
- Chip Ganassi