Here we go, this week in INDYCAR and we’re off to the races (well, almost). Starting with the BIG, no HUGE, announcement that Las Vegas Motor Speedway will play host to the races that will crown the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Lights champions– the IZOD IndyCar World Championship. INDYCAR will even up the ante of the IZOD IndyCar Series race by welcoming challengers to a high-stakes shootout on the high-banked oval. Read more about the $5 Million Challenge, which driver do you hope to see bid for their chance to win the IZOD IndyCar World Championship this year?

A better view of the strip.

IZOD IndyCar Series drivers prepared to take on Vegas

For fans, the announcements get even better. Purchase a ticket to any IZOD IndyCar Series race this season and you’re eligible to redeem a ticket to the season finale. Full details will be announced March 1 on IndyCar.com. “This is a time when INDYCAR can tell our fans that we thank them for their support,” said Randy Bernard earlier this week (read more about the ticket offer here). All that remains to be asked is, who’s up for a Vegas Vacation this fall?

IndyCar fans in Milwaukee got a treat on Saturday when driver, Justin Wilson, made an appearance along with the Milwaukee Bucks at the Greater Milwaukee Auto Show and then later in the day joined the NBA franchise for their game against the Chicago Bulls. The appearance is part of a series of other planned community appearances counting down the 110 days remaining until the 2011 Milwaukee Mile.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that fans ages 9-17 will be able to visit the Gasoline Alley garage area this May 14-28 with the purchase of a Junior Garage Credential. Can’t wait for the Indianapolis 500 in May? Check out TheGreatest33.com in the meantime where fans can sign up for early admission to the interactive (i.e. very cool) Indianapolis 500 website. This year’s race will also feature a noon ET start time (read about it). This week, Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced that  Jay Howard will join them in an attempt to qualify for the 100th anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500. Read more here about Howard’s first attempts to qualify for the Indy 500 in 2010 and what his goals are for the 2011 running. Are you making plans to be at this year’s race too?

Gasoline Alley

Gasoline Alley at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Fans on Twitter may have caught this week’s big announcement that this spring’s the May Indy Tweetup will present the #BeatCancer Bash in support of Racing for Cancer. New to the May Indy Tweetup? Find out what two IndyCar fans with a seemingly endless phone battery life (it’s not easy to tweet as often as you eat) and a huge passion for racing launched in 2010 and have planned for 2011.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, an ambassador for Racing for Cancer, lent his support this past week for a cross-country bike ride to raise funds and awareness for cancer. Read more about the driver’s efforts here. It’s always cool to keep tabs on what drivers are doing outside of the track, but, speaking of racing…

We’re a month away from St. Pete (a month? No, no, 25 days to be precise) and plans are underway for the party (read more here). And the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach announced this week at on April 16, a star-studded field will race over 10 laps on the Long Beach street circuit in identically prepared, race-ready Scion tCs. Get a look at the celeb line-up here.

Scenic

The overhead view of the temporary street circuit in St. Petersburg for the 2010 Honda Grand Prix of St. Pete.

But first comes testing (Testing? What? Why? Read more here). It’s close, oh so close and we’re ready to watch. Team Penske’s Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, along with KV Racing Technology-Lotus drivers E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato, will join Chip Ganassi’s Charlie Kimball and Vitor Meira for testing on March 1 (as in, only 2 more days). Other drivers will be testing March 9-10 at Sebring International Raceway. All leading up to the March 14-15 Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Which driver will you have your eyes on during testing?

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