AUSTIN, Texas – If an NTT IndyCar Series driver wins Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas from the pole, he will collect an additional $100,000. That bonus was announced Thursday as teams set up for this weekend’s inaugural IndyCar Series race at COTA, the home of the Formula One United States Grand Prix.
“That will buy a nice bottle of wine,” Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe quipped.
It actually might buy a very nice wine cellar.
The bonus was announced by Rick Abbott, Executive Vice President of COTA.
“We wanted to make this race very special to distinguish ourselves from everybody else,” Abbott said. “It’s always bigger in Texas, and we wanted to do something different and very cool to make qualifying more exciting. If you win the pole on Saturday and win the race, a driver will win an extra $100,000.
“That’s a ‘Welcome to Austin’ with a little extra incentive for you guys.
“Circuit of the Americas is one of the most challenging tracks in the world, and we have the best drivers in the world. This race will be incredibly difficult to win, and it will be exciting to see these drivers navigate this course.”
A collection of some of the NTT IndyCar Series top drivers were at the announcement.
“That’s very generous,” Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi said. “Obviously, we have a huge incentive to do that as it is. This makes it very exciting and I’m sure some guys will commit to it very heavily to make it happen.
“This has been a long-time coming for IndyCar to race at Circuits of the Americas and to be in Austin, one of my favorite cities in the United States.”
Qualifying is set for 3 p.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, March 23 with the race scheduled for 1 p.m. ET Sunday. Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer for NBCSN alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Kevin Lee, Jon Beekhuis and Robin Miller.
The extra money available for the pole winner is an extra incentive that can help set this race apart from the other events on the schedule. In the past, large bonuses were paid to the pole winner of the Indianapolis 500.
“It’s a pretty long lap in an IndyCar, but hopefully, there will be lots of room to pass,” said former Formula One driver Max Chilton. “It’s also great that an English band, Muse, will be playing on Saturday night.”
When asked if he would be attending the concert, Chilton quipped, “That all depends on how well we do on Saturday.”
One of Rossi’s teammates, Marco Andretti, believes the 20-turn, 3.41-mile race course already is one of the most challenging tracks on the schedule. It’s also the only track that hosts both IndyCar and Formula One on the same layout.
“It’s not necessarily a Marco Andretti track because it rewards smoothness, so I’m going to have to work on my style,” Andretti said. “There are a lot of different ways to drive this track fast and a lot of places where you can screw it up as well.”
Winning from the pole happened in six of the 17 IndyCar Series races in 2018. Rossi won from the pole at Long Beach and Mid-Ohio, Newgarden won from the pole at Barber Motorsports Park and Road America, Power won from the pole in the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Ryan Hunter-Reay won from the No. 1 starting position at Sonoma.
In the seven F1 races at COTA, Lewis Hamilton has won from the pole three times.