IndyCar’s 2024 Thermal Club heat race format explained


For the first time since 2008 at Surfers Paradise, IndyCar is hosting a non-championship round – this time at the ultra-exclusive Thermal Club track in California on March 22-24.

The winner of this event – called the Thermal $1 million Challenge, which includes heat races and a final event that has a break after 10 laps – will win $500,000.

Some drivers in this field have never raced for cash and not points before, so it’s bound to produce some entertainment.

Here’s what to expect.

The format

Two heat races will take place to decide the grid for the final. The rosters for those heat races will be decided by a draw held on Thursday evening.

As for how those rosters line up on the grid, there will be a pair of 12-minute qualifying sessions to decide it.

The top six from each of those heat races will go into the final event, creating a 12-car grid for the top prize money in Sunday evening’s finale.

Testing will take place Friday and Saturday, qualifying is Saturday evening and then the two heats and the final all take place on Sunday.


Schedule (all times local, PDT, GMT-7)

Friday March 22

Open test 1 0900-1100hrs

Open test 2 1400-1700hrs

Saturday March 23

Open test 3 0900-1100hrs

Open test 4 1300-1500hrs

Qualifying group 1 1700-1712hrs

Qualifying group 2 1727-1739hrs

Sunday March 24

Heat 1 0931hrs

Heat 2 1005hrs

Final 1059hrs


The prize money

1st $500,000

2nd $350,000

3rd $250,000

4th $100,000

5th $50,000

6th-27th $23,000 each


The rules

Thermal Club, IndyCar

For the first time ever, IndyCar’s push-to-pass overtake system will be available in qualifying sessions, with the drivers getting 40 seconds to utilise in a tactical manner.

The 20-lap final will be split in two – with a break after 10 laps.

Teams will be able to add fuel, adjust the front and rear wing angles and add or remove wicker aerodynamic devices, adjust tyre pressures and help the driver.

The drivers will start the final with 40 seconds of push to pass and that will be replenished at the half-time break. Only tyres used during the heat race will be available as replacement rubber for the final, and any tyre change has to be anyway approved by IndyCar.

What is Thermal?

Thermal Club, IndyCar

Thermal is a very exclusive club with a race track and car storage, hotels, restaurants and luxury housing. It has never been opened to the public on the scale it will be for this weekend’s event, where tickets started off at $2000 but have dropped to $500.

IndyCar tested at the track last year and drivers were complimentary – and particularly encouraged by its almost test-track like nature of having lots of different corner profiles.

It is situated near Palm Springs in California.

Entry list

AJ Foyt Santino Ferrucci, Sting Ray Robb

Andretti Global Marcus Ericsson, Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood

Arrow McLaren Callum Ilott, Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi

Chip Ganassi Marcus Armstrong, Scott Dixon, Linus Lundqvist, Alex Palou, Kyffin Simpson

Dale Coyne Nolan Siegel, Colin Braun

Ed Carpenter Christian Rasmussen, Rinus VeeKay

Juncos Hollinger Agustin Canapino, Romain Grosjean

Meyer Shank Tom Blomqvist, Felix Rosenqvist

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Pietro Fittipaldi, Christian Lundgaard, Graham Rahal

Team Penske Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden, Will Power



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