Ten with Townsend: Sonoma and 2015 IndyCar debrief


Following an emotional roller coaster at Sonoma to cap off the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season, we check in with our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for the latest installment in the MotorSportsTalk original series “Ten with Townsend.”

A series archive is linked here and as always, we thank him for his time and insights:

-When you have a tragedy such as we’ve had this week with the loss of Justin, how do you compartmentalize and move ahead while still honoring a fallen friend/great driver and greater man?

As a racing driver, there is no option when you strap in the car: it will force your focus. Perhaps that’s why, in the end, it’s the best therapy for the drivers.

-As you and I were both on assignment elsewhere at VIR instead of at Pocono, was it harder to be away or was it good to be able to come back this weekend to Sonoma and reunite with the IndyCar family?

I had the forced focus going at VIR, but the sweetness of victory was short-lived as I heard the call live on IndyCar Radio on the way to the airport.

-What are some of your favorite Justin memories?

Having him come up to me after the Richmond race in 2008. Flaming mad but uncontrollably polite. I remember thinking… “This is the nicest guy I’ve ever battled against.”

-You said during the pre-race show to watch out for Dixon. Should we call you NostraTownsend now?

No, a simple plaque will be fine.

-All kidding aside, even with as cool and calm as Dixon is, how surprising is it he was able to make up the 47-point deficit? Did double points swing the championship too much in your opinion?

It was the same for everyone. A level playing field and Dixon grabbed the pie and ate it.

(Editor’s note: Townsend wrote this now incredibly accurate line after Iowa: “I predict Dixon and Montoya down to the last lap.. Iceman cometh…as always…”)

-Did Montoya and Penske lose the title, did Dixon and Ganassi win it, or was it a little of both?

There’s a certain twinkle in PT’s eye when he reminded us that this was the seventh time in eight years where Penske has ‘lost’ the title at the final race. It would be hard not to see this one that way.

-When you look back at the season Graham Rahal and RLL had, should they be disappointed it ended how it did or be thankful they enjoyed such a successful campaign?

They punched above their weight and they should be proud of the season. The vulnerability of a one-car team was certainly exposed on the starts and restarts Sunday as the multi-car management took place.

-Sonoma race: Biggest surprise and/or disappointment you had.

Biggest surprise was Rodolfo Gonzalez. Solid all weekend and an impressive result.

Biggest disappointment was watching another great result slip through Josef Newgarden’s very talented hands.

-The 2015 season: Biggest surprises, and/or disappointments you had.

Biggest surprise: Easily Rahal. Didn’t see that coming at all.

Biggest disappointment: Penske. I thought you could make a case for them winning every race this season. In the end their total tally was three!

-Lastly, what are some of your favorite memories of the 2015 season? This was a turbulent year for IndyCar but did you think the series’ on-track product overcame some of the challenges that sprouted up during the year, notably during month of May and then here in the last month?

I think my favorite memory will be Chip “Axl Rose” Ganassi testing the shoulder strength of his Target VIPs. I thought I had seen it all.

It’s nice to see he still has the passion for winning and a much more elegant execution than his Mid-Ohio stage dive after Kimball’s victory in 2013.

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