Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon collected nearly $3 million dollars Monday (May 26th) evening at the Indianapolis 500 Victory Banquet and celebration at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The twenty-seven year old racer from Auckland, New Zealand became the first Kiwi to win the famous Memorial Day 500-mile race on Sunday (May 25th), holding on to the late-race lead throughout a fierce pursuit by second-place Vitor Meira and third-place finisher Marco Andretti.
"Wow. It is truly amazing," Dixon said of the unprecedented payout."The Honda engine was untouchable. It's the biggest day in my racing career. It was a magnificent race."
The check for $2,988,065 was the winner's slice of a record $14,406,580 total purse for the 92nd running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Second-place Vitor Meira collected a stunning $1,273,215 prize, the first time a runner-up in the Indy 500 has earned more than a million dollars in a single race's prize money.
"We struggled a lot in the last year," Meira said, "but our partners believed in us and we came back. In the six years I've been at Indy I have no bad memories whatsoever. It's a great place."
Third-place finisher Marco Andretti took home $782,065; Helio Castroneves crossed the finish line in fourth place, earning $482,815, and Ed Carpenter earned $399,665 for fifth.
"Not bad," said twenty year-old Marco of his huge haul. "All the best drivers are under one roof and it's good to see everybody back." Of his one regret (undercutting teammate Tony Kanaan, who crashed) he added, "TK, you're going to win here someday, I promise you."
"I thought I had a chance," said Castroneves, "but I couldn't quite make it all the way to the front. Fourth was the best we could do. Chip and Scott and his guys did a hell of a job."
Ryan Hunter-Reay's sixth place result was affirmed as the best among the eleven Indy rookies this year, as he was awarded the $25,000 bonus and the Chase Rookie of the Year Award.
"It was a heck of a day, and I learned so much," he said. "It was unreal."
Meira also collected the Scott Brayton Drivers' Trophy and recognition as the driver best reflecting the competitive spirit and strong character of the late Scott Brayton.
The Indy 500 victory brings Dixon back to the top of the standings for the 2008 Indy Racing League championship, a prize he was denied in the last race of the 2007 season when he ran short of fuel on the last turn of the last lap while holding the lead at Chicagoland Speedway. Dixon won the 2003 Indy Racing League championship in his first year of competition in the IndyCar Series.
Scott Dixon becomes the ninth nationality and 22nd foreign driver in 92 runnings to win the Indianapolis 500.
Dixon joins an awe-inspiring short-list of New Zealand champions and innovators who've made their mark at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Bruce McLaren won twice at the Speedway, in 1974 and 1976, with Texan Johnny Rutherford at the wheel of a McLaren designed car. Racing legend Denis Hulme was at McLaren's side in 1970 when the team first appeared at Indy for a try at the Borg-Warner trophy.
Ironically, the Formula 1 team bearing McLaren's name won earlier in the day of Dixon's Indy 500 win with a triumph at the Monaco Grand Prix.
It is also Dixon's second important triumph in international competition, adding to his 24 Hours of Daytona victory with teammates Dan Wheldon and Casey Mears for Ganassi Racing in 2006.
Finally, it's the fourth time the No. 9 car has won the legendary race. Previous winners were Sam Hanks (1957), Rick Mears (1979) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2000, also in a Ganassi Racing car).
The 93rd Indianapolis 500 is scheduled for Sunday, May 24th, 2009.