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Indianapolis 500 awards to be very high next year

The winner also will receive at least $2.5 million (€1.8 million), some 42 percent more than the record $1.76 million (1.2 million EUR) paid to Buddy Rice in 2004.

Both the total and first-place prizes could be even higher, depending on contingency awards such as winning the pole position and other performance bonuses.

As part of the Indy Racing League's new incentive program for teams and drivers to participate in the entire IndyCar Series, the new purse structure is "significant and appropriate for an event the stature of the Indy 500 commands," Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood said Tuesday.

Each car in the 500 next year will be guaranteed at least $270,000 (190,600 EUR), with full-time series drivers getting at least $300,000 (211,800 EUR). That's more than $100,000 (70,600 EUR) more than the lowest prize this year. The runner-up could earn at least $1.25 million (880,000 EUR); third place, $750,000 (529,475 EUR); fourth, $475,000 (335,300 EUR); and fifth, $375,000 (264,700 EUR), which is more than the winner received each year until 1983.

The IRL also will award at least $1.2 million (850,000 EUR) for each car competing in the entire 16-race season.

"It's our way of providing stability for the teams and improving the business model, hoping to attract new ones," IRL president Brian Barnhart said. "It should benefit everyone, whether it's teams that are well-funded and have all the sponsors, all the way down through each and every team involved in the series."

The IRL has lost several drivers to Formula One and the American stock-car racing circuit NASCAR in recent years, including Tony Stewart and Indy winners Jaques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya. This year's Indy and series champion Dario Franchitti and former winner Sam Hornish Jr. also are considering switching to NASCAR for next season.

The Daytona 500, NASCAR's premier event, paid out more than $15.7 million (11.1 million EUR) to the 43 starters this year, but the record $1.51 million (1.1 million EUR) to winner Kevin Harvick is about $1 million (710,000 EUR) below the anticipated winner's share at Indianapolis next year.

"We feel very good that the purse we offer for the Indy 500, including the winning prize check for next year, is significant and appropriate for an event the stature of the Indy 500 commands," Chitwood said.

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