Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon will take Alex Tagliani's Sam Schmidt Motorsports seat for the Kentucky IndyCar race as a warm-up for his potentially big-money Las Vegas outing.
Wheldon will start from the rear of the Vegas grid in a car entered jointly by Schmidt and Bryan Herta Autosport, who collaborated on his Indy 500 program. If Wheldon comes through the field to take victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series finale, he will win $2.5 million and a fan drawn at random will win the same amount.
To better prepare for that race, Schmidt has arranged for Wheldon to drive team regular Tagliani's No. 77 car in the penultimate IndyCar round at Kentucky this weekend.
"I can't thank Alex enough for letting me drive his car in Kentucky and to work with the team in preparation for Las Vegas," Wheldon said. "I'm really excited about this opportunity and look forward to working with everyone at Sam's team. They were a large part of our winning effort in May, and I'll do my best to get back to Victory Lane."
Tagliani said it was his own choice to stand aside for Wheldon for Kentucky so that Schmidt had a better chance at Vegas. Wheldon has not raced since winning Indy, although he has been test driver the new 2012 IndyCar machine.
"I'm obviously not happy about sitting out Kentucky, but this is a very exciting opportunity," Tagliani said. "Dan and I are good friends, and I'm very jealous that he gets to run for the $5 million. But, I fully support what IndyCar has done to generate fan interest and will do everything I can to help the SSM team run Dan in Kentucky and prepare for the Go Daddy Challenge."