500 Victory Banquet awards drivers - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

500 Victory Banquet awards drivers

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A day after one of the closest finishes in Indy 500 history, the Speedway handed out the prize money tonight to the 33 drivers who competed in the race.

The 500 Victory Banquet gives each driver a moment to shine, but the biggest spotlight Monday night fell on Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, the first American to win the Indy 500 since 2006.

For his victory, Hunter-Reay earned $2,491,194.

The overall purse this year was $14,231,760.

Kurt Busch won the Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award.

The Victory Banquet is also about glitz and glamour for the drivers.

And it's a chance for serious athletes to let loose and enjoy the moment.

The stars of the track shone brightly on the red carpet outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for a celebration of the 33 drivers who make the month of May so special.

All the familiar faces were all dressed up for the 500 Victory Banquet.

"When you respect a place like this and the place pays you respect, it's a great combination," said Helio Castroneves, who finished second in Sunday's race.

Inside the banquet, Dave Calabro and Anne Marie Tiernon honored each driver, one by one, presenting prize money for their finish in the greatest spectacle in racing.

"I've been through quite a few big races, big events. But nothing compares to this one. Just when you get in the car and you have half a million people in the grandstands, you can feel that energy," said Jacques Villeneuve, who finished 14th.

As usual, comedy onstage was easy to come by for the drivers.

"First, I'm excited it was a running start. I gotta laugh about it, I guess," said Sebastian Saavedra, joking about his wreck at the start of the Grand Prix of Indy earlier this month.

There were also a few laughs about the most talked about wreck of the race, involving James Hinchcliffe and pole sitter Ed Carpenter.

"Have you guys settled your differences, kissed and made up," Calabro asked Hinchcliffe.

"More of a peck on the cheek, but yeah. Yeah. Soft lips! You're a lucky woman, Heather, a lucky woman," Hinchcliffe responded.

"We're battling out there and we were both trying to win the race and things happen sometimes so, we're fine. We talked in the med center and texted again last night so we're good," Carpenter said on the red carpet.

Drivers also paid tribute to tradition, saying farewell to Jim Nabors, who performed "Back Home Again in Indiana" for the final time on Sunday.

"It's been the highlight of my year for many, many years," Nabors told the crowd. "The thing I got most emotional about was when I was in the pace car around the track. Everybody was so great."

Nabors received a special painting from the Hulman George family during the banquet.

It honoring the actor and his signature song, which is loved by fans and drivers alike.

"You're a part of giving us goosebumps when we're in the car prior to launching the race," said Alex Tagliani, who finished 13th.

But the biggest spotlight in that roomful of stars was on the race winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, of team Andretti Autosport.

"It can be so cruel, it can be so rewarding," Hunter-Reay said. "This place has given me my friends, my family. I can't believe my face is going on that trophy."

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