March 20 in Motorsports History: Michael Andretti makes a big return


March 20, 1994 was an important date in American open-wheel racing.

The date marked the first race in CART’s 16th season as a sanctioning body. The Indy cars began their season on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia. 

It was an important weekend for the Andretti family. For Mario Andretti, Surfers was the first round of his 16-race ‘Arrivederci Tour’. After 29 seasons in open-wheel, the sports icon finally would hang up his helmet at the season’s end.

For Michael Andretti, the weekend marked a welcome return to familiar territory. Michael spent 1993 racing in Formula One for McLaren but was replaced by Mika Häkkinen with three races remaining after being plagued by a series of poor finishes.

Michael Andretti celebrates winning at Surfer’s Paradise on 20th March 1994. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Andretti signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 1994 season and picked up where he left off in the season opener.

After the first two attempts to start the race were delayed because of weather and accidents, Andretti overtook race pole-sitter Nigel Mansell during the third attempt.

He went on to dominate, leading all 55 laps of the race, which was shortened by 10 laps due to darkness.

The victory was the first for Andretti in 17 months but was his second consecutive victory in CART competition as he had previously won the 1992 season finale at Laguna Seca.

Andretti’s victory was also the first for Ganassi and the Renyard as a chassis manufacturer.

“It’s great to be back. What can I say?” Andretti told ABC Sports following his victory. “I prayed hard for this, and it came true.”

Andretti won again in the 1994 CART season in July at Toronto. He finished fourth in the overall standings.

The second-generation driver returned to Newman/Haas Racing the following year and replaced his father in the team’s No. 6 Texaco-Havoline entry. 

Also on this date:

2005: Fernando Alonso won the Malaysian Grand Prix, one of seven victories in his first championship season.

2016: The No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM team of Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ed Brown, and Pipo Derani won the 64th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Derani made the race-winning pass on Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Action Express entry in the final moments of the race. 

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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