Indy 500 to pay out $13.4M

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Please note that this story was published in 2007.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The winning share of next year's Indy 500 will top $2.5 million. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway increased the purse for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the entire IRL season.

In some ways it will level the playing field, IMS officials say. Each team that competes in all league races will get $1.2 million, enough money to lease an engine and buy a season's worth of tires. Together with increasing the 500 purse, may bolster a league which has recently suffered some setbacks.

The guaranteed money theoretically gives all racing teams an equal starting point.

"In any business, whether it's motor racing or out in the normal world, it's tough to be successful and we all need the help to certainly do that," said Kim Green, Andretti Green Racing.

The funds are especially important to smaller teams like Beck Motorsports. Owner Greg Beck pointed out, "It's $1.2 million less than what we needed to find a year ago. So we're already ahead of the game from a financial standpoint."

The financial pot is also getting sweeter for the Indy 500 in particular. The purse is increasing by 25 percent compared to last year. And the record $1.76 million earnings of Buddy Rice in 2004 is dwarfed by a minimum of $2.5 million for the winner in 2008.

Speedway officials say attendance at the Indy 500 is up and so are the TV ratings, but there's no doubt open wheel racing has some stiff competition.

2006 Indy 500 champ Sam Hornish, Jr. is considering a full-time move to NASCAR. The '07 winner, Dario Franchitti, may also be driving a stock car next year. But IMS officials say the increased funds are in no way meant to compete with other leagues.

"We appreciate what other motor sport sanctioning bodies do but we feel very good that the purse that we offer for the Indy 500 including the winning prize check for next year is significant," said Joie Chitwood, IMS President and COO.

"This may bring to the attention to the sport that it needs," said Robert Villegas, owner of New Century Marketing Concepts. He is hopeful the infusion of money will create more opportunities for his and other small sports marketing companies.

"That's going to make it easier to go to a sponsor and say we've got a strong program...we can do things for you that will elevate your company," Villegas said.

The $1.2 million goes to the teams that are scheduled to participate in all IRL races. But even if a team is bumped from the 500, they still receive nearly $300,000.

As for the first place prize, $2.5 million may seem like a lot of money and it is, especially compared to the amount Ray Harroun took home after winning the race in 1911: $14,250.

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