The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races in the world. It’s also the biggest race on the IndyCar calendar. It’s very prestigious, and this means it comes with a big prize pot for the best drivers, and the amount of Indy 500 prize money up for grabs is better known than that of other IndyCar events.
The Indy 500 prize money is usually about $13-14 million, with the winner taking between 10-30% of it. The total prize fund varies from year to year. The 2019 winner of the Indy 500 took home $2,669,529, while the most anyone has ever won was $3,048,005 back in 2009.
While the total prize fund for IndyCar changes from year to year, it’s worth looking at some examples over the last few decades to see just how much the value changes. But before we do that, it’s worth talking about prize money in IndyCar in general.
Information About IndyCar Prize Money
Finding reliable information about the prize money involved in IndyCar can be difficult. The organizers behind IndyCar events like to keep the financial side of things under wraps. This leaves much to the speculation of the viewers, but there’s no doubt that, while there is a lot of money to be made in IndyCar, it’s distributed between drivers and teams in various ways.
The Leaders Circle
A lot of the time, teams will pay their drivers on a sliding scale depending on how much money they earn from a race, and what position they finished in. Things like the Leaders Circle award teams that do consistently well, but the drivers need to split their earnings with the teams. Tricky contract issues can leave some drivers with very little money even if they regularly win races.
However, the Indy 500 as an event has its own points and money system. This can make things even more complicated when you’re trying to work out how much a driver actually makes from racing at the Indy 500. Fortunately, prize money figures for the Indy 500 are much easier to find, and it’s worth comparing how the prize money has changed over the years.
Current Indy 500 Prize Money
2020 was an odd year for motorsport, with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing everything to a halt until the latter part of the year. However, the Indy 500 was one event that still managed to go ahead, albeit under very different circumstances to its usual. With no fans at the race, there were big implications for the prize pot.
The Smallest In A Long Time
Takuma Sato was the winner for the second time in his career, and he took home the smallest amount as a winner of the Indy 500 since 2003. He earned $1,370,500 of the $7,502,500 total prize fund. The fund was set to be $15 million before the pandemic put a stop to what would have been the largest ever pot for the Indy 500.
One year earlier, Simon Pagenaud was the winner. He took home $2,669,529 from a purse of $13,090,536. Even Josef Newgarden, who finished in 4th, took home nearly half a million dollars. But even those finishing at the bottom of the pile took home at least $200,000, so it could be argued that everyone normally wins at the Indy 500.
Indy 500 Prize Money In The Past
Casting your mind further back gives you an idea of the evolution of Indy 500 prize pots over the years. The first Indy 500 was held in 1911, and the prize fund totaled just $27,550. This would still be worth more than $3 million in today’s money when we account for inflation, but it’s still substantially less than the sums in play at the modern Indy 500.
Peak Prize Money
Fast forwarding to 2008, the prize money for the Indy 500 peaked. It reached a massive $14,406,580. However, it was a year later that the largest sum was paid out to a winner, when Hélio Castroneves took home $3,048,005, about the equivalent of the inflation-adjusted total prize fund from the first Indy 500.
It’s clear that the prize money for the Indy 500 has increased over the years. While the record wasn’t broken for the largest prize pot in 2020, there’s no doubt that in the near future the money will make it up to new heights once again.
The winner of the Indy 500 usually makes at least $1 million. However, with winnings of more than $3 million in the past, and total prize funds of more than $15 million on the horizon, the money involved is likely to continue to rise.