AVONDALE, Ariz – Logistics will keep Juan Pablo Montoya from taking up the IndyCar offer to race in that series' finale for a potential $5 million payout. They wouldn't prevent Sam Hornish Jr. from trying. But will he even be eligible?
Earlier this week, IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard proposed the following: a $5 million bonus to any driver from another series who wins the IndyCar series finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 16.
While intrigued by the idea, Montoya said getting to and from Las Vegas from Charlotte, N.C., where the Cup Series will be racing on Oct. 15, would make it nearly impossible to make a competitive effort.
"If you're really going to go try to win the five-million bucks, you would have be at all the practices and, you know, do it right," Montoya explained. "It's intriguing and I think it will interest a lot of people. I think a lot of people are going, 'Ohhh.' But at the end of the day, it's impossible. Are you going to show up on Sunday and race without practice and hope for the best?"
Montoya's first obligation is to the Cup Series, which means he has to be in Charlotte for practice on Friday, Oct. 14 and for Saturday's race which begins at 7:46 ET. That would leave Saturday morning as the only time to practice in IndyCar. Factoring in at least a four-plus-hour flight, a three-hour time difference and participating in the mandatory driver's meeting two hours prior to the Cup race, Montoya figures he would have to leave Las Vegas no later than 10 a.m.
"It ain't gonna happen," Montoya said.
It could, however, happen for Hornish Jr., that's if the rules allow it.
While Bernard has already announced the promotion, he's yet to set the criteria for it. In fact, he and several others from IndyCar's competition department are meeting Friday to determine who will be eligible, as well as potential testing opportunities. According to an IndyCar spokesperson, there is no timeline for when the eligibility requirements will be announced.
When they are, we'll see if this is a serious offer or just a tool used to promote a series that's in dire need of some promotion.
Before making the switch to NASCAR in 2008, Hornish won three championships and 19 races in Indy cars. That would seemingly make him a legitimate contender for the $5 million. However, Hornish isn't competing in the Cup Series this season and is only racing a part-time schedule in the Nationwide Series.
Will Bernard and his team implement a rule stating a driver must race "full-time" in another series in order to qualify for the $5 million?
With Formula 1 racing in South Korea that weekend, such a rule would disqualify the two drivers Montoya pegged as the only two legitimate threats – Hornish and Robby Gordon, another former open-wheel racer who's running a part-time schedule at the Cup level this season.
Hornish, who is not racing this weekend in Phoenix, could not be reached for comment.
"[Sam's] got the time," Danica Patrick said. "That would be a good payday."