SBD/Issue 169/Leagues & Governing Bodies

Indy 500 Puts IRL Teams’ Financial Disparity On Display

Top-Funded IRL Teams Leave Little
Chance For Other Indy 500 Entries
The “back of the pack” at Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 “will be loaded with solo entries of teams that scrimp, save and hope just to participate, with little chance of winning,” according to Steve Ballard of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. Ballard: “Even if the sagging popularity of open-wheel racing has caused the Indy 500 to lose some of its luster, it remains the event that teams put the most into and get the most out of. The sponsors’ exposure and a total purse of more than $10[M] far exceed any other race.” The three teams with the “biggest annual budgets” — Andretti Green Racing, Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing — land multimillion-dollar sponsorships that pay for “the best drivers, the best engineers, the best of everything — which translates into the best results.” Those three “top-tier programs” spend about $6M to run a car for the full IRL season. Profitability also is “tied to the driver’s ability to avoid crashes. With no insurance available, repairs are paid for out of the team’s coffers.” Ballard notes costs for smaller teams can reach $500,000 or more “for even the low-budget, month-of-May-only operations,” but the last-place finisher Sunday is “assured of collecting at least $200,000” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/25).

MONEY TALKS: The AP’s Michael Marot noted nine of the ten drivers under Penske, Green and Andretti qualified in the first three rows of the race. IRL President & COO Brian Barnhart said, “There is no replacement for being well-funded. That’s the case in every form of motorsports. That’s why you have to do everything you can to reduce the amount it takes to compete.” Marot noted the IRL “has tried to level the playing field,” as each team now uses a spec Honda engine, and testing has been reduced (AP, 5/23).

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