Kyle Larson wins at Thunderbowl, Californians sweep the weekend with Giovanni Scelzi also victorious.

Larson Scelzi California Outlaws
Trent Gower / World of Outlaws

The six-night “Spring Swing” for the World of Outlaws gave California natives an opportunity to beat the best sprint car drivers in America as Giovanni Scelzi and Kyle Larson swept the first two nights at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, California on Friday and Saturday.

Granted, neither of these drivers is an unknown entity for the Outlaws. Scelzi is racing with them full time in 2022; Larson entered the weekend with 24 Outlaw wins, four of which came in 2021. Despite being a part time driver with them in 2020, Larson had the most wins that season of 12.

The theme of California dreaming was prevalent at Thunderbowl. On Friday, Scelzi finished ahead of Connecticut’s David Gravel, but Elk Grove’s Larson was third and St. Helena’s Rico Abreu finished fourth to give the state three of the top-five finishers. Saturday night, Larson and Abreu finished in the top five. And while Fresno’s Dominic Scelzi eventually finished seventh, he was the driver Larson had to pass on Lap 19 to take the lead.

Night 1 featured a fierce battle at the front after rookie contender Spencer Bayston spun from the lead and handed it to Gio Scelzi. As the leaders sliced through traffic, throwing sliders, executing crossover moves and banging along the boards, Larson and Abreu unofficially held the lead for portions of laps without being credited at the flag stand.

“You can go ahead and tally one for California over the Outlaws,” Scelzi said in a release. “Seriously, though, this is really cool. I’ve never won a race this big in front of my home crowd. I haven’t been back in a long time, so to feel this support is incredible.”

After starting the night ninth, Larson may have used up some of his equipment getting through traffic.

“This has always been my favorite track,” Larson said on Friday. “It’s great to be back after such a long time and put on a show like that. I felt like we were good enough to win, but I just made too many mistakes on my part. Hopefully, we can get a better start to our night tomorrow and we’ll be in good shape.”

After qualifying seventh for the Cup race at Phoenix Raceway, (a position he has to relinquish after fixing a steering problem), Larson flew to California in time to make the show for Night 2.

He did not get a much better start Saturday night, and rolling off the grid sixth meant that it took 18 laps to get to the front. Once in the lead, Larson refused to give it up.

“Central California fans are some of the best in the country,” Larson said after earning his fifth Outlaws victory in the state of California. “I always love getting to race in front of these people, especially at places I grew up at.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here, but it was technical and kind of old school the way I remember Tulare. This is amazing.”

The 25th win in his 114th start gives Larson sole possession of 25th on the all-time wins’ list – for the moment at least. One of the drivers he broke away from is Sheldon Haudenschild, who already has two wins this season and is destined for more.

Californians may not be done wowing the home crowd. After finishing fifth on Night 1 and second on Night 2, last year’s Outlaws champion Brad Sweet leads the series to Merced Speedway, a quarter-mile bullring 170 miles away from his hometown of Grass Valley.

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