Palm Beach International Raceway President, Ron Dixon has announced a scholarship shoot-out for aspiring Indy Lights drivers. The event is tagged as "The Indy Lights Rookie Challenge" and will offer under-funded drivers an opportunity at a fully funded Indy Lights ride for 2009 (valued at over 1 million dollars). Here's the catch: Entry in the shoot-out costs $35,000 USD.
After evaluating the risk/reward options, $35,000 seems quite minuscule in comparison to a funded Indy Lights ride, which by the way includes travel, tires, fuel, crash damage, and a Indy Lights license. The greatest risk associated with entry, apparent to me, is the chance that a driver will take the $35,000 entry fee out of their already limited budget for 2009. If a driver does that and fails to secure the scholarship, he/she will have just spent a good chunk of money that could be used in a series of lesser expense.
Drivers will be evaluated by a professional panel (without association to a specific race team). My biggest concern with the shoot-out is how the judges will evaluate drivers and determine the winner. If they are just looking for fast laps.... the decision won't be too difficult, give it to the most experienced driver. My hope is that they actually take a look at each driver's experience level and monitor their improvement in the car....and perhaps more importantly look at the current financial situation of the best performing drivers in attendance. To put it bluntly, don't give the scholarship to an already-funded driver with more experience than the majority.
Drivers will log 150 miles on the Palm Beach International Raceway road course, as well as 150 miles on the high speed oval; Homestead-Miami Speedway. The event is scheduled to take place from mid-February to the first week in March.