NHRA: Cruz Pedregon puts best foot forward in first day of qualifying at Route 66

1 Comment

JOLIET, Il. – Given his choice, Cruz Pedregon would rather be a leader than a follower every time.

That’s why when it came time for the first two rounds of qualifying for the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals on Friday, Pedregon put his best foot forward as soon as he can.

The former two-time NHRA Funny Car champion raced to the provisional pole in his second run down the drag strip at Route 66 Raceway, setting a track record in the process with a run of 3.966 seconds (at 315.64 mph).

How quick was Pedregon’s run? Just .07 of a second short of his all-time career-best run (3.959 seconds).

“We were expecting these big numbers, but you never know, these cars are so touchy,” Pedregon said. “We were nervous (with other cars behind him) because we obviously wanted to be No. 1.

“That’s a great way to start, but we have another night session (Saturday). … There may be some cars tomorrow that may have something to say, so we’re not counting our chickens just yet.

“We’re going to come out here tomorrow and establish a good baseline in the first run and come out and see if we can’t fire off another good run.”

Pedregon has wound up as the No. 1 qualifier three times over the years at Route 66, but has not come away with a win. He hopes to change that Sunday.

“I would put Route 66’s surface at No. 1 or No. 2 (on his personal list of favorite tracks) as far as flatness and smooth as ice,” Pedregon said. “It’s a good track.

“It’s smooth, there’s no bumps or rebounds and all that kind of stuff. Whoever laid this pavement out when it was built 15 years or so ago, did a great job.

“We give it a little extra knowing we’re here than somewhere else.”

Chad Head qualified second (3.991 seconds at 318.17 mph), followed by Tommy Johnson Jr. (4.003 at 316.15), Courtney Force (4.012 at 318.32), Ron Capps (4.014 at 315.78) and John Force ((4.020 at a session-best speed of 321.58 mph).

There will be two more rounds of qualifying on Saturday, leading up to Sunday’s final eliminations.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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