IndyCar Series confirms 2012 leaders circle entries
Seeking to further increase the competitive balance throughout the IZOD IndyCar Series field, INDYCAR has modified its Leaders Circle program for the 2012 season.The program has been capped at 20 entrants for the season, with additional funds utilized to enhance race payouts for non-Leaders Circle entries.The confirmed 18 returning members that finished in the top 22 in 2011 entrant points have each been awarded Leaders Circle designations. INDYCAR used its option to award the remaining two spots to reach the 20-car cap.As part of the criteria to be considered for a Leaders Circle slot, INDYCAR principals heard presentations from IZOD IndyCar Series teams regarding their organizational, promotional and marketing plans for 2012. INDYCAR shared its broad-based marketing, business development and public relations objectives in an effort to develop cross-promotional opportunities.Based on these presentations, one entry each from Ed Carpenter Racing and Lotus Dragon Racing were selected to fill out the remaining Leaders Circle openings."We want to make sure we're laying the foundations for our teams to grow strong into the future," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "Only the top 22 entrants from last year were guaranteed spots in the Leaders Circle. When Newman Haas Racing gave up its two positions, we decided to choose two teams that could make a substantial commitment from both a competition and promotional aspect for the series. We feel that Ed Carpenter Racing and Lotus Dragon Racing bring the right mix of organizational stability and commercial reach to the sport, so they have been awarded with Leaders Circle designations."Bernard added: "After two additional Leaders Circle spots became available, it was difficult to pick which entrants would get those slots because all the eligible teams had great qualities. We made a decision that would allow all of them to compete for the money, available only to non-Leaders Circle entrants."Non-Leaders Circle teams are eligible for payouts in each race aside from the Indianapolis 500, with the highest-finishing entrant receiving $80,000, followed by $65,000, $53,000, $40,000 and $26,000 for fifth highest finisher among the Non-Leader's Circle entries.Additionally, all entrants will compete for bonuses of $35,000 for first place, $25,000 for second, $20,000 for third, $15,000 for fourth and $10,000 for fifth place at each IZOD IndyCar Series race aside from the Indianapolis 500.The Leaders Circle program was established in 2002 to provide incentives to teams that participate in the IZOD Indy Car Series full time. The program leverages relationships built by INDYCAR with its partners, sponsors and suppliers to provide monetary benefits directly to the teams.INDYCAR also capped the starting field number at 26 entrants for events in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in April and Qingdao, China, in August. The field will be composed of the top 24 in the 2012 entrant point standings entering the event, the highest finisher in the 2011 entrant point standings and a promoter option for the 26th entrant.Each Leaders Circle member is assured approximately $1.1 million for the season if the entrant successfully qualifies for the Indianapolis 500 (a $250,000 bonus) and is among the 26 to participate in the China race (a $68,559 bonus).The IZOD IndyCar Series champion and championship entrant will share in a $1 million bonus, with second through fifth place in the final standings receiving bonuses of $250,000, $175,000, $125,000 and $75,000.All contingency prizes will continue to be awarded to entrants for individual IZOD IndyCar Series events.In total, more than $39 million will be awarded to teams throughout the course of the 2012 season, including the purse for Indianapolis 500.