NHRA: Shawn Langdon and Alan Johnson Racing hope for strong Phoenix run to keep racing going forward

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After a storybook finish to what had begun as a nightmare, Alan Johnson Racing is back to square one of sorts in this weekend’s Carquest Auto Parts NHRA Nationals in Chandler, Ariz.

When Al-Anabi Racing unexpectedly pulled its sponsorship from AJR four weeks before the start of the 2015 NHRA season, Johnson vowed to run at least the first two races, the season opener at Pomona, Calif., and this weekend’s race at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.

After this weekend, though, the team’s future is up in the air. AJR is continuing to pursue sponsorship opportunities to replace the lost Al-Anabi funding and keep moving forward in 2015.

In the season opening Winternationals, AJR driver Shawn Langdon had a perfect weekend. Not only did he record the quickest 1,000-foot elapsed time in NHRA Top Fuel history (3.700 seconds), he qualified No. 1 and ultimately wound up winning the race to boot.

“I don’t think Pomona could have been any more perfect,” Langdon said in an AJR media release. “We made the quickest pass ever, qualified No. 1 and got the win the first race out.

“We did what we set out to do. Everything we tried to do in testing all came together at Pomona, and it was absolutely a picture-perfect weekend.”

It was Langdon’s second career win in the Winternationals, and AJR’s fifth win in the last six races (both the season-opening Winternationals and season-ending World Finals) at Auto Club Raceway.

Langdon, who now holds not only the quickest elapsed time mark, but also the fastest speed (334.15 mph, set at Reading, Pa., in 2012), has high hopes that AJR can pick up where it left off two weeks ago at Pomona.

“Going on into Phoenix, we have to keep the momentum going and keep plugging away with what we’re doing,” said Langdon, who is No. 1 in the standings, 32 points ahead of second-ranked Antron Brown. “The car is responding well.

“We’re still working on sponsorship to fund the car through the 2015 season. We’re hard at work trying to get the race car running well and running consistently, but we’re also hard at work trying to get sponsorship lined up for the season.”

Johnson hopes to keep his team – which was pared down from two dragsters to just one after Al-Anabi’s pullout – moving forward and continue competing on the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series.

There are 24 races on the NHRA national event schedule. With one race down, 23 remain – including this weekend – and AJR hopes to make all of them, even though the team is approaching everything one race at a time pending acquisition of additional sponsorship.

“I’m hoping the Knuckle Sandwich/AJPE team can pick up right where it left off in Pomona (at) Phoenix this weekend,” said Langdon, who won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 2013. “They have a lot of new improvements at the race track in Phoenix, and I’m excited to get back there this weekend.

“A couple of the cars ran well there in Phoenix testing (in late January) so that shows the track is good.  We just need to keep doing what we’re doing.  Our confidence is definitely sky-high; we’re all very motivated right now, and we’re ready to go racing in Phoenix.”

NOTES: Langdon’s No. 1 qualifying position at Pomona gave him 17 for his career, tying him with the late Blaine Johnson for career No. 1 spots. Blaine Johnson, who died in a racing accident in 1996 at Indianapolis, was Alan Johnson’s brother. … AJR has won three of the last five NHRA Top Fuel season championships. Langdon won in 2013, Del Worsham in 2011 and Larry Dixon in 2010.

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Winner Josef Newgarden earns $3.666 million from a record Indy 500 purse of $17 million


INDIANAPOLIS — The first Indy 500 victory for Josef Newgarden also was the richest in race history from a record 2023 purse of just more than $17 million.

The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion, who continued his celebration Monday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earned $3.666 million for winning the 107th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

The purse and winner’s share both are the largest in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

It’s the second consecutive year that the Indy 500 purse set a record after the 2022 Indy 500 became the first to crack the $16 million mark (nearly doubling the 2021 purse that offered a purse of $8,854,565 after a crowd limited to 135,000 because of the COVID-19 pandemic).

The average payout for IndyCar drivers was $500,600 (exceeding last year’s average of $485,000).

Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, whose team also fields Newgarden’s No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, had made raising purses a priority since buying the track in 2020. But Penske but was unable to post big money purses until the race returned to full capacity grandstands last year.

The largest Indy 500 purse before this year was $14.4 million for the 2008 Indy 500 won by Scott Dixon (whose share was $2,988,065). Ericsson’s haul made him the second Indy 500 winner to top $3 million (2009 winner Helio Castroneves won $3,048,005.

Runner-up Marcus Ericsson won $1.043 million after falling short by 0.0974 seconds in the fourth-closest finish in Indy 500 history.

The 107th Indy 500 drew a crowd of at least 330,000 that was the largest since the sellout for the 100th running in 2016, and the second-largest in more than two decades, according to track officials.

“This is the greatest race in the world, and it was an especially monumental Month of May featuring packed grandstands and intense on-track action,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “Now, we have the best end card possible for the 107th Running of the Indianapolis 500: a record-breaking purse for the history books.”

Benjamin Pedersen was named the Indy 500 rookie of the year, earning a $50,000 bonus.

The race’s purse is determined through contingency and special awards from IMS and IndyCar. The awards were presented Monday night in the annual Indy 500 Victory Celebration at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis.

The payouts for the 107th Indy 500:

1. Josef Newgarden, $3,666,000
2. Marcus Ericsson, $1,043,000
3. Santino Ferrucci, $481,800
4. Alex Palou, $801,500
5. Alexander Rossi, $574,000
6. Scott Dixon, $582,000
7. Takuma Sato, $217,300
8. Conor Daly, $512,000
9. Colton Herta, $506,500
10. Rinus VeeKay, $556,500
11. Ryan Hunter‐Reay, $145,500
12. Callum Ilott, $495,500
13. Devlin DeFrancesco, $482,000
14. Scott McLaughlin, $485,000
15. Helio Castroneves, $481,500
16. Tony Kanaan, $105,000
17. Marco Andretti, $102,000
18. Jack Harvey, $472,000
19. Christian Lundgaard, $467,500
20. Ed Carpenter, $102,000
21. Benjamin Pedersen (R), $215,300
22. Graham Rahal, $565,500*
23. Will Power, $488,000
24. Pato O’Ward, $516,500
25. Simon Pagenaud, $465,500
26. Agustín Canapino (R), $156,300
27. Felix Rosenqvist, $278,300
28. Kyle Kirkwood, $465,500
29. David Malukas, $462,000
30. Romain Grosjean, $462,000
31. Sting Ray Robb (R), $463,000
32. RC Enerson (R), $103,000
33.  Katherine Legge, $102,000

*–Broken down between two teams, $460,000 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, $105,500 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing/Cusick Motorsports