Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dan Wheldon aims for $5 million bonus at IndyCar finale

Sunday's IndyCar season finale in Las Vegas has drawn extra mainstream media attention, in large part because of extra cash.

Series CEO Randy Bernard has offered $5 million for a win by any driver outside the series who wished to challenge. The idea was to perhaps draw a NASCAR star or IndyCar alumnus, but only St. Petersburg resident Dan Wheldon — hardly an "outsider," the 2011 Indianapolis 500 champion was eligible only because he did not race in the series full time this year — took the challenge.

And a large challenge it will be. One of the stipulations of going for the big prize was that Wheldon must start in last place, and 34 cars are on the entry list. Plus, he'll have to split the $5 million with a fan if he wins it.

Not that this dims the opportunity for Wheldon.

"I'm definitely driven by winning," Wheldon said by phone this week from Los Angeles, where he was doing appearances, including on the TV show Extra, to promote the race. "But at the same time, I'm extremely excited by the opportunity. Outside of Indy, I've never seen such a big payout."

Outside of Indy, Wheldon has done only one other race this year, Oct. 2 at Kentucky. The time off can make the physical and mental strain of racing even tougher.

"I've been very lucky; I was out of the car (for several months) before Indy, but since then I've been in the new car," said Wheldon, who has been testing the series' revamped 2012 model extensively. "I have spent a lot of time in the gym, but there's absolutely no substitute for being in the race car."

As he did at Kentucky, Wheldon will drive the No. 77 car for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, the ride usually occupied by Alex Tagliani. That car sat on the pole for the Indy 500 and was basically part of a three-car effort, along with Townsend Bell and Wheldon, whose winning No. 98 car was associated with Schmidt's team via Bryan Herta. Tagliani will drive the No. 98 this weekend.

"It's going to make it a lot harder," Wheldon said of starting at the back, "but obviously it's a quick car, and I think there are enough laps for us to get to the front."

And, as demonstrated at Indy, a driver only has to be at the front at the end. Rookie JR Hilde­brand hit the wall in Turn 4 of the final lap, allowing Wheldon to get past and lead the final few hundred yards, his only lead of the race. Wheldon says his second Indianapolis 500 win was a different feeling than the first.

"I think in 2005 it was almost expected of me," the native Englishman said. "Now I've had good times and bad times, so it really makes me appreciate winning the Indy 500 a lot more. … It's amazing what Indy does for you."

Such as help provide the opportunity to go from one big payout to another.

Jim Tomlin can be reached a tomlin@sptimes.com.

IndyCar season finale

What: World Championships

When/where: 3:45 Sunday; Las Vegas

TV: Ch. 28

Dan Wheldon aims for $5 million bonus at IndyCar finale 10/14/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2011 10:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Seattle Mariners first baseman Yonder Alonso (10) scores on the double by Seattle Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  2. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  3. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  4. Bucs journal: Starting defense disappointed holding Jags to 1 rushing yard

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on seven carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 preseason win.

    And its members were disappointed.

    Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) is thrown for a 1-yard loss as he is stopped by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David (54) and defensive end Robert Ayers (91) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) JVS102