Ericsson nets $3.1 million from largest purse in Indy 500 history, 3 takeways from this

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis 500 purse record was shattered after a wildly successful 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, with race winner Marcus Ericsson taking home $3.1 million from a total purse of $16,000,200.

It’s the largest purse ever in the century-plus history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s prize is also the largest winner’s payout ever for the world’s largest single-day sporting event.

SEE: Official Box Score

Prior to 2022, the biggest Indy 500 purse was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500. This year’s average payout for drivers was $485,000.

“The Indianapolis 500 is the greatest race in the world, and these drivers lay it all on the line for a chance to drink the winner’s milk and kiss the famous Yard of Bricks,” Roger Penske said. “This year’s record-setting purse is reflective of their tireless pursuit of history and the world-class talent they display on every lap.”

It marks yet another major milestone this Month of May as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened its gates to race fans with no restrictions for the first time in three years. More than 325,000 race fans attended Sunday’s race, making it the largest-attended single-day sporting event in the world since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second-place finisher Pato O’Ward, of Arrow McLaren SP, took home $1 million, marking the largest take-home prize for the second-place finisher in nearly a decade.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson earned Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year honors for his historic and electrifying performance during the Month of May for Chip Ganassi Racing. Johnson earned a $50,000 bonus for being named Rookie of the Year, adding to a total take home prize of $207,900.

The Indianapolis 500 purse consists of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT INDYCAR SERIES awards, plus other designated and special awards. Purse awards are presented annually at the Victory Celebration, held this year at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis Monday night.

The next NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear on Sunday, June 5 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. The race will be broadcast live on USA Network and the INDYCAR Radio Network starting at 3 p.m. (ET).

Penske Ponies Up

A few years ago, Roger Penske said that the purse would eventually get an large upgrade. Then COVID happened in 2020 which forced the Indy 500 to take place behind closed doors. 2021 was limited capacity that was capped around 150k. This year though, it was a near sellout with an estimated crowd in excess of 320k to witness the 106th Running on Sunday. As a result, the payouts were greatly increased.

Marcus Ericsson’s check was the largest to ever occur in the 106 year history of this great event. Even 2nd place (Pato O’Ward walked out with a check in excess of $1-million.

Part Timers Took Pay Cuts, Making One-Off Entries Harder For The Future

The drawback of larger checks for most of the field was the paycuts taken by the part time teams. Tony Kanaan finished 3rd place but due to this being a part-time ride, he only took home $400k. 4th place was a full time driver (Felix Rosenqvist) and he netted $570k.

The other part timers were jealous of Kanaan’s payout though. They didn’t even get out of the $100k threshold. Santino Ferrucci and Juan Pablo Montoya each finished 10th and 11th respectively. Their checks were $134k and $127k each. JR Hildebrand is also part time and got $175k.

For the 7 part time drivers, 6 of them were in the $100k range. I mean last place was Rinus VeeKay and he earned $487k. Callum Ilott was 32nd and got $463k.

This goes to show you that it makes it harder as a one-off to come into the entry list in the future because if they do, they need to now bring a substantial amount of money upfront to even get out of the red by the banquet. This pay scale rewards full time efforts and would force teams that want to show up as a one-off entry to have to get a driver that brings a lot of money.

If you’re a free agent driver without any money, you’re essentially a no go for the Indy 500 because teams needs large funding now to put a driver in a one off opportunity.

Malukas Slighted

Jimmie Johnson took home Rookie of the Race honors but most believe David Malukas should have instead. Malukas was quietly good all month. He was in the top 10 of most speed charts and qualified just 1 spot behind Johnson for the big race. He ran in front of Johnson for most of the race at that and brought his No. 18 Dallara-Honda home on the lead lap and 12 spots ahead of Johnson in the end as the highest finishing rookie driver.

Still, it was Johnson who took home the award instead and made most to believe that this was a popularity award instead now. They’re not wrong. The criteria is more for popularity than results.

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