The cars may run on methanol, but the Indianapolis 500 really runs on money--lots of it. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and race sponsors handed out more than $7 million in prize money last year, including awards for the oldest driver, the youngest driver, and the driver who takes the most practice laps. And this year, for the first time, the car with the slowest qualifying time will capture the Slo Poke award.
The Slo Poke, some of you may recall, is a long-lasting caramel lollipop. To gain publicity for the candy, its maker, D. L. Clark Co., is funding the $5,000 prize. The winning (sic) car will whiz around the track sporting a Slo Poke decal.
You might think that any self-respecting driver would reject such a dubious honor. But auto racing is an expensive hobby, notes Indy 500 marketing exec Kurt Hunt. In a cash-hungry world, he says, "no one is reluctant to accept $5,000."