BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said the series' $5 million challenge has attracted plenty of interest from drivers in other circuits interested in taking on the open-wheel professionals.
Bernard said Monday that some 15 drivers or their representatives have contacted him since IndyCar offered $5 million in February to any driver who beats the series' best in their championship race in Las Vegas.
He says overtures have come from NASCAR, Formula 1, Supercross and Rally.
"Some of the names are fantastic," said Bernard, who didn't reveal any specific candidates. "I think people will be surprised on who wants to drive it."
The season-ending championship race will be held Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the finale of a 17-race schedule with points going toward the title.
The race will be open to as many as five outside drivers, who first must be picked by a selection committee and then must qualify at the track on race weekend. If they can win, they'll get a nice check.
"The bottom line is us trying to gain credibility, to say that our drivers are the best drivers in the world," Bernard said. "They're the fastest, most versatile drivers in the world.
"That's really what this is all about, is putting that out there to say, 'If you don't believe it, come take a look."'
The other bottom line is, well, the bottom line. Last year's season-ending race at Homestead was televised on the cable channel Versus; ABC will televise this one.
"Our whole key to this is last year we did a .3 rating on our championship race," Bernard said. "In my opinion, that's the best-kept secret in motorsports. If we can't do a 1.5 or 2 rating on network television, I would consider it a failure."
Driver Paul Tracy, who is looking for a ride, has suggested the $5 million could be put to other uses.
Bernard's response: "I'd say, 'Paul, if you can sell the tickets I wouldn't have to do that."
"Our drivers have not been able to create the credibility they need," he said. "It's not because they don't have the talent; it's because there's been no emotional attachment to our fan base. What we have to do is bring that back."
Bernard also said he anticipates Tracy, Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon will find sponsors in time to run in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 27.
"I've talked to all of them," he said. "I feel very optimistic we're going to see those guys start our first race."