The Indy Racing League delivered on its promise of a record payoff for the Indianapolis 500.
Scott Dixon, who won the race on Sunday, took home a record prize of $2,988,065 at the annual victory dinner last night. It was nearly double the former record of $1.76 million to Buddy Rice in 2004, and the total purse of $14.4 million broke the previous record of $10.7 million handed out last year.
"We sat down and talked over the purse structure and thought the increase was significant and appropriate for the greatest spectacle in racing," Speedway president Joie Chitwood said.
The increases for first place and total purse marked the largest 1-year jumps in the race's 92-year history. The total prize package also was a record for open-wheel racing and was second in all of auto racing to NASCAR's Daytona 500 at about $18 million.
Chitwood said the prize restructuring was part of the IRL's new incentive program to draw additional teams and drivers into the full IndyCar schedule.
Runner-up Vitor Meira earned $1.27 million, a record for second place and $3,000 more than Helio Castroneves received for winning the race in 2001. Marco Andretti took home $782,065, also a record for third place. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished sixth, received $328,065, including a $25,000 award as rookie of the year.
Danica Patrick started fifth and never ran above sixth once the race began. She complained repeatedly to her team about a slow car and then got taken out on pit lane with 30 laps to go when Ryan Briscoe spun his tires and slammed into her car coming out of his pit.
The enduring image from the race most likely will be that of the 5-1, 100-pound Patrick stomping toward Briscoe's pit stall, ripping off her gloves, looking for a fight. She was stopped by track security.
"It's probably a better idea that I didn't make it all the way down there anyway," she said. "Because, well, as you guys know, I'm a little emotional." *