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Johnson’s Indy 500 rookie win draws anger – is it justified?

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

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The Dale Coyne Racing team has reacted angrily to Ganassi’s Jimmie Johnson winning rookie of the year at the Indianapolis 500, as Coyne’s driver David Malukas was the top finishing rookie in 16th place and Johnson crashed out.

The rookie of the year award is voted for by the media.

The instructions given are that it “should be presented to the driver who has performed with the most distinction among first year drivers in the Indianapolis 500. The criteria includes on-track performance in practice, qualifying and the race, media and fan interaction, sportsmanship and positive influence on the Indy 500”.

Coyne’s team wrote on Twitter: “We all know that @malukasdavid is the actual Indy 500 Rookie of the Year. Maybe actually finishing the race needs to be part of the criteria. #Onceagainwewererobbed.”

The ‘once again we were robbed’ likely refers to 2017, when Fernando Alonso retired with an engine issue but still won the award over Coyne driver Ed Jones, who finished the race in third.

Alonso likely won the award for the same reasons as Johnson, for the media focus and attention he helped that year’s race benefit from.

Malukas’s sponsor HMD – owned by his father, Henry – and Romain Grosjean were among those who took to social media to debate the decision.

The Race says

Jack Benyon

I was asked to vote in this year’s rookie of the year award, and I have no problem admitting I voted for David Malukas.

For one, he finished the race!

He was involved in a practice crash the Friday before the event that wasn’t his fault, and his team burned the midnight oil to get that car back out. It did, and he raced extremely well under the circumstances to finish 16th.

106th Running Of The Indianapolis 500 Presented By Gainbridge Sunday May 29 2022 Largeimagewithoutwatermark M60146

We saw from Colton Herta, who had to retire, just how tough it can be to have to go to an untested car after a Carb Day shunt.

Malukas also raced cleanly, hit his marks and executed well for the most part. Those were the reasons I voted for him.

However, this award wouldn’t need to be voted for if it was as simple as ‘the highest placed rookie in the race’.

I can totally understand why members of the media voted for Johnson. When it comes to media and fan interaction, sportsmanship and positive influence on the Indy 500, Johnson is a clear winner. He has 2.7 million followers on Twitter alone, and paused his preparations for the race to fly off and appear on Jimmy Fallon’s TV show. He designed his helmet with country music singer Blake Shelton, which will be auctioned off for charity. He is Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson’s journey to the 500 has been reported on for months and has gained the 2022 event massive amounts of attention.

If it was down to me, the rookie of the year should just be the highest-placed finisher among that crop and be done with it. It’s a shame for Malukas that this award won’t go on his CV. It could help him massively with sponsorship and the like in the future.

And if I read Jimmie Johnson as a person correctly, he’ll be just as upset for Malukas that he didn’t win as Malukas is. He’s as fair and honest as they come.

Ericsson gets record prize money for Indy 500 win

Indianapolis 500 Day After Photo Shoot Monday May 30 2021 Largeimagewithoutwatermark M60419

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Marcus Ericsson has scooped $3.1million (around £2.45m) for his Indy 500 win, from a total purse of over $16m.

The average payout for a driver starting the race was $485,000.

Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward, the race runner-up, also banked a seven-figure sum with $1m for the race.

Despite losing the race lead with an error that led to a pitlane speeding penalty at his final stop, Scott Dixon still bagged the third-highest amount from the race despite finishing 21st, owing to the pole position he claimed the previous weekend and for an additional amount added on for laps led.

Dixon led a race-high 95 laps, which also helped him to become the record holder for most laps led in the Indy 500 – passing Al Unser’s previous record.

106th Running Of The Indianapolis 500 Presented By Gainbridge Sunday May 29 2022 Largeimagewithoutwatermark M60125

Roger Penske had promised to increase the race’s purse after buying the Speedway in 2020, but then the pandemic hit and the focus shifted merely to attempting to run the world’s largest single-day sporting event, and negate the financial losses when fans couldn’t attend in 2020 and were in reduced attendance in 2021.

This year though Penske and the group behind the event have made good on its promise, as the purse was the biggest ever for the race. The 2014 event, which offered just over $14m, is one of only two other years the purse has exceeded $14m since unification between the IRL IndyCar Series and Champ Car for 2008 – the other year that figure was exceeded.

You can view the full list of purse winnings from the 2022 race here.

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