Is “how much do IndyCar drivers make?” a million-dollar question? It might or might not be. The answer depends on the performance of the driver over a few seasons. It might not because many IndyCar drivers earn in the lower six figures. Many enthusiastic parents wonder if investing in their child’s racing career will lead to a prosperous future. Most do not consider the risks involved in motor racing. This article will take a look at what approximately IndyCar drivers make while risking their lives every time they sit in the cockpit.
The harsh truth is that only a few top-ranking drivers earn a million or more during the season. The middle rung of drivers earns six-figure incomes if the team has good sponsors, the bottom one-third of drivers earn almost nothing for risking their lives. A few drivers even borrow money to race in IndyCar races. They hope to repay the loan on prize money winnings and sponsorships during the racing season. Many of them end up with loans to be repaid.
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How much is known about IndyCar driver’s contracts?
The salaries of most professional athletes are readily available to fans on Google. Among IndyCar circles, the question of how much drivers earn is somewhat of a taboo. There may be several reasons for keeping drivers’ contracts confidential. One among them could be that there is no real money to make in IndyCar racing. It is a well-known fact that margins are pretty thin in IndyCar after the infamous Split of 1996. As such, racing is not a get rich quick sport. The trick lies in working one’s way up, racing for a good owner and hoping to attract some good sponsors.
Even if a driver’s contract is made public, it would be impossible to put a figure on it for a season’s earnings. All drivers get paid salaries no matter what. But their earnings will depend on the driver’s past performances and the sponsors a driver gets with him. Sponsorship also varies on the performance of a drivers performance in a particular race and the exposure that a sponsor gets to the audience.
How does the IndyCar Leaders Circle programme work?
IndyCar has a “Leaders Circle” program which binds the driver and the team to participate in all the races in a season. Only the top drivers are entered by owners in the programme. The entrance fee to the programme could run into 100s of thousands of dollars. In Indy 500 for example, some drivers that participate are full-time drivers. Part-time drivers have to come up with about $500,000 to $100,000. Drivers then sign a contract with the owner that stipulates their share of the earnings.
Drivers arrange the money from personal wealth, sponsors and loans from well-wishers. When the driver hands over the money to the team a contract is signed. A driver’s Indy 500 contract determines the driver’s salary and the percentage of the prize money. When the contract is finalised the driver is an official participant in the Indy 500. At the end of a race, the driver is handed a check and compelled to announce the amount of the check publicly. Most people believe that is the driver’s take-home earnings.
What happens is that the driver only takes away only a small percentage of the amount on the check. The amount on the check also includes the Leader Circle money and the negotiated percentage. The driver will then take the remaining money which could amount to anywhere about 20% to 40%. If the driver is lucky and has sponsors, he could stand to earn more. This goes on for the Indy 500 and many other races in IndyCar.
How much do you get paid in IndyCar?
Drivers racing with top teams like Andretti Autosport and Team Penske make more money. Scot Dixon, who races for Chip Ganassi Racing is believed to earn between $3.5 million to 4.5 million per year. That is because Chip Ganassi Racing is among the top teams in IndyCar and pays Dixon a handsome salary. Added to the salary are Dixon’s prize money and money paid by sponsors. Besides, Dixon spends the whole season and off-season promoting the sponsors and their products. Dixon is usually accepted as the highest-paid driver although the figures are more guesswork than facts
Only the top fifteen or sixteen drivers are estimated to earn a million or more. The ambiguity in the driver’s earnings is again due to the complex contracts that drivers sign with the owners and sponsors. Some drivers will bet on the chance of grabbing a sponsor or two during the season. They will offer a percentage of the sponsorship to the owner. Good drivers are also offered “perks’ by some owners. Roger Penske is known to set up some of his drivers for life by offering them business arrangements.
The middle-income rung of drivers will earn about $1,000,000 to $500,000 a year. A couple of dull seasons could mean an end to their driving career. The number of drivers in that bracket could be about 10 to 12. The lower rung of drivers is mostly those that have to get a lot of budget to their teams. These drivers sometimes borrow money to get a chance to participate in a race. These few drivers could end the season earning $250,000 to $350,000. Yet again, some rivers may end the season owing money to the lenders.
How much do IndyCar drivers make: Conclusion
It is difficult to speculate on an IndyCar driver’s earnings even if his contract is available for perusal. A driver’s earnings depend on his performance through the season besides his salary. Sponsorships also greatly influence the take-home salary of the driver. While star drivers earn good money not so successful drivers will find it hard to make ends meet at the end of their driving career. Like one driver’s agent said “Race in IndyCar for the love of the sport and not for the money you bring home.”
It is difficult to decipher an IndyCar driver’s annual earnings. But it can be safely said that for an average performer, the earnings are not phenomenal by any standards.