Scott Dixon ponders the ‘what ifs’ of red flag and fuel mileage at Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS –After his third second place in the Indy 500, Scott Dixon was left second-guessing both IndyCar officials for holstering a red flag for the finish and himself for being left in position to be affected by the decision.

Dixon led a race-high 111 laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but lost control of the race over the final green-flag stint when he couldn’t match the pace of race winner Takuma Sato while trying to conserve fuel.

But when Spencer Pigot spun off Turn 4 with four laps and slammed into the attenuator at the entrance to the pit lane, Dixon thought he would get at least one more shot at winning his second Indy 500.

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“I definitely thought with five to go they were going to immediately because, one, the size of the crash, and two, where it was,” Dixon said. “It wasn’t going to be a quick cleanup. I was kind of surprised they didn’t. I kind of heard they said, ‘Normally we don’t do that.’ History would tell you that’s not true either.”

This was the ninth time in the past 18 years that the Indy 500 has ended with a caution flag, most recently in 2013 when the last five laps were run under yellow

The following year, IndyCar (under the leadership of a different race director than Sunday) elected to red-flag the race for more than 10 minutes to ensure the final seven laps were green – a decision that earned the ire of some in the series.

In a statement Sunday, IndyCar said the series “makes every effort to end races under green, but in this case following the assessment of the incident, there were too few laps remaining to gather the field behind the pace car, issue a red flag and then restart for a green-flag finish.”

If he’d been afforded the opportunity, Dixon – who took the lead from pole-sitter Marco Andretti with a pass on the first corner of the race – believed he could have beaten Sato.

Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon go by Spencer Pigot’s wrecked car, which brought out a yellow flag that effectively ended the 104th Indy 500 (Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports).

“For us it would have been really good because I think the leader would have been a sitting duck,” Dixon said. “That’s kind of harsh on Sato. If they got out there and had a dash with three laps to go, I think all is fair in a situation like that.

“I can’t change that. It is what it is. I think it would have been interesting to see how that played out. It would have been much better for us rather than Sato.”

Bobby Rahal, the co-owner of Sato’s car, wasn’t as sure and said it “it’s silly to sit there and try to predict what might have happened.

“You can prognosticate all you want about what if they red flagged it and you had a restart,” he said. “Maybe the guy in third would have been the guy in the upper hand, big tow, went by both of them. Who knows?

“All I know is we won the Indy 500 today and that’s what counts.”

Dixon, who won the Indy 500 in 2008, was left pondering why Sato became the 20th multiple winner of the race instead of him.

“It’s a bit funky like this sometimes,” he said. “You can’t rely on being strong all day. You can’t rely on past races or anything like that. It is what it is. It’s definitely tough when you come up short in a situation like that.

“Everything we did, strategy, was on point. We definitely had a pretty fast car. We knew it was always going to get tricky at this point of the day. We thought we kind of made the right call.”

The race’s turning point was the final restart on Lap 154. Unable to hit the fuel mileage needed to make the finish on one more stop, Dixon’s team gave up power for efficiency by switching to a leaner fuel mixture.

The five-time series champion gave up the lead to Sato on Lap 158 but still thought he’d be in good shape. But though he got within striking distance of Sato a few times in traffic during the final 15 laps, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver kept pulling away (Rahal later said Sato had “plenty” of fuel despite pitting a lap earlier than Dixon).

“We didn’t think they were going to make it on fuel,” Dixon said. “Seemed like there was a hesitation maybe about 15 to go or 12 to go where I got beside him on the straight. It’s like they started to go to a lean mixture, then they decided it was just too slow, so they kind of went back at it.

“I probably should have been a little more aggressive on that high side there. I think he would have just run me up anyway, which maybe would have put both of us in the fence, or maybe just me.

“Maybe we should have gone harder. Maybe we would have run out of fuel and been in the same position. I don’t know what was the right call. Just shows you, when I was asked if I wanted to be leading with five laps to go yesterday, absolutely, especially with a scenario like this.

“Definitely hard to swallow for the team. Massive thank you to the 9 car crew. They did a tremendous job on pit road today, strategy, everything we could. Got to say congrats to Sato, too. He drove a hell of a race. They were victorious. He’s drinking the milk, and that’s what counts.”

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