Motorsport is notoriously expensive, especially at the top level. Sports like Formula 1 run into the hundreds of millions of dollars each year for teams, and most of this money is spent on the cars themselves. But how much does it cost to run an IndyCar team?
It usually costs between $3 and $10 million to run an IndyCar team for a year. IndyCar is not as expensive as Formula 1, but it is still in the millions of dollars each year to run a team. The car costs around $2-3 million, and the drivers themselves may demand a salary of this or more.
This number will be higher for the best performing teams, and much lower for the teams near the bottom. There are a lot of factors to consider, and we will look at each one in more detail below, while also giving somecomparisons to other motorsports as well.
How Much Does An IndyCar Cost?
IndyCar is a motorsport that uses what are known as spec cars. This means that they are all built to certain specifications, including the engine, although the engine can come from either Chevrolet or Honda. This is in contrast to the other main open wheel motorsport of F1, where the teams need to design their own chassis each year, although they too can use an engine from a different supplier.
This makes F1 cars extremely expensive, as there is a lot of design, construction and testing involved on each part, which adds up to a lot of money. F1 teams spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on development trying to get the edge over their opponents, whereas in IndyCar, every team is running the same base car, although they may make small tweaks to the way it runs.
For example, there may be specific aero kitsfor each engine supplier, but even these won’t vary from team to team. This means that all of the parts can effectively be mass produced, which always makes things much cheaper than individual manufacturing of parts. Thus, the cost is brought down substantially, usually to around $2-3 million, which is still a lot of money.
This is per car, and a team might run one car each year or they might run several. Thus, the costs can very quickly double and triple without even considering the equipment and salaries of the members of the team. Even though it is much cheaper than an F1 car, it is still a very large amount of money.
The engines can cost varying amounts depending on the program the team chooses. There is a more limiting option for $125,000 per month that means teams need to use the same engine for racing and qualifying, or the more expensive, but also more popular option of $225,000 per month, giving the teams two engines to use for the month.
The tires also set the teams back a significant amount each month, at around $90,000 for 33 sets. All of these (relatively) small costs add up, and it becomes easy to see why teams need to have a big budget in order to have success. But it is not just the cars that cost thousands of dollars each month, as there are many other important components to consider as well.
Other Smaller Costs In IndyCar
Aside from the car itself, the maintenance of the car is another key component of the final price tag of running and IndyCar team. For example, in order to put those tires on the car during a pit stop, mechanics need a wheel gun. These cost around $5,000 each, with teams usually having at least five of them on hand, in case of an inevitable malfunction over the course of a season.
There are other important pieces of equipment that the mechanics need to use on a race by race basis, including a setup table which might set them back $12,000, and even the nitrogen used in the tires and wheel guns can end up costing thousands of dollars. Repairs, if the car gets damaged in a race, often also end up running into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But even before the car makes it to the track teams need to run testing, which often involves a wind tunnel. This can cost from $4,000 to $35,000 per day to use, and so if teams have a lot to test, they will also need to have a lot to spend. There are various other tests the teams might want to do as well, and so preseason can become very expensive very quickly.
The crew and drivers also need all of their uniforms and safety suits, with fireproof suits costing more than $1,000 each. The driver needs one, and so do his mechanics, along with other members of the team as well. Then there is accommodation and food to think about, with race weekends being treated as major events, with major costs to go along with it.
It can cost thousands of dollars for the weekendto house and feed the drivers and team staff, and even parking motorhomes can run into the tens of thousands for a few days. These are the kinds of costs that are often forgotten about, yet they make up a significant portion of the final bill at the end of the season.
The Salaries Of An IndyCar Team
The salaries of everyone involved in an IndyCar team is perhaps the area that comes with the mostvariation. There are those on the lower end, such as those operating things like the fire extinguishers and the stop signs in the pits, that still need to get paid. These can cost a few hundred dollars per race to employ, or a few thousand dollars over the course of a season.
Air jack operators might demand a salary of around $25,000 per year, while those changing the tires can earn triple that. Then there are crew chiefs, which are the ones who earn the most in the pitlane. They may earn a smaller salary of around $30,000 if they are with a smaller team, with bigger teams paying up to around $150,000.
There will also be a full team of other people not on the front lines, such as managers and directors of the teams, and plenty of people below them on the pay scale too. There will be engineers, trainers, PR staff, and lots of others that all need to earn a living too. This can add up to hundreds of thousands for smaller teams, and even more for the larger teams with bigger budgets.
Then of course there is the driver. IndyCar is notoriously quiet about driver salaries, and it is tough to find information on them. However, it is safe to assume that some rookies and lower tier drivers will be earninglow six-figure incomes each year, with some possibly not even being paid by the teams. Some drivers will pay them to give them a chance to drive in IndyCar, known as pay drivers.
But as you go further up the scale, the drivers start to demand higher salaries. Many estimates put top drivers such as Scott Dixon well into the millions of dollars each year. This is really only the territory of the top teams, but the driver is usually the biggest expense for the teams in terms of salary, no matter atwhat level they race.
Balancing Out The Costs
Although the teams pay a lot of money out each year, they also bring a fair amount in as long as they do well. Some of the bottom level teams might make a loss each year, with the cars and drivers simply costing more than they are able to bring in with race wins and sponsorships. Some rely on outside investment entirely.
However, winning teams can net large portions of fairly large purses for each IndyCar race. The driver will of course get a significant chunk of this prize money too, but teams often take more than half of the winnings. The Indy 500 has a purse of around $13 million each year (the exception being the 2020 Indy 500 at around half that), with the top driver taking around 20% of the purse.
This means the teams can net $1 million or more if they manage to win the biggest race of the year, which can go a long way to balance the costs for the year. However, some of the other races of the year pay just $30,000 to the winner, and so teams either need to win consistently, or find money elsewhere. And this is where sponsorships come in.
IndyCar relies heavily on sponsorships, as do most sports nowadays. Drivers will have their own sponsors (usually) while teams will also pair up with big brands to put their names on the side of the car. These can net the teams thousands or millions of dollars per year and are usually the largest chunk of the money that the teams receive each year.
The costs of running an IndyCar team will vary depending on the team’s performance, with top teams spending close to $10 million each year on their cars and team of staff, while bottom tier teams may only spend around $3 million. These costs are made up of the driver and team salaries, as well as the car itself and various parts and pieces of equipment.