Teams that are part of the Verizon IndyCar Series' Leaders Circle program will each receive increased total annual payments of $1.25m for the forthcoming 2015 season, up from $1m last season.
The entries of 21 drivers are covered by the program, with membership determined by success in the previous 12 months as set by each car's position in the final 2014 championship points standings. The entries only receive the full amount if they successfully qualify for all races during the year, including May's Indianapolis 500.
"IndyCar is invested in the continued support of its teams," said Derrick Walker, the series' president of competition and operations. "The Leaders Circle program rewards IndyCar teams for full-season participation and helps each of them with an additional source of funding.
"The program is also an asset to our promoters as it guarantees over 20 cars at each Verizon IndyCar Series event," Walker added. "As IndyCar continues to grow we're excited about opportunities like this that are beneficial to the teams that compete in our series."
The Leaders Circle program was established in 2002 to provide incentives to teams that are committed to running full time. As well as the base payout of $1.25m, the Leaders Circle entrants also compete for bonuses throughout the year that will now be paid to the top 12 finishers in a race compared with just the top ten in 2014.
The race bonuses are $30,000 (first place), $20,000 (second place), $15,000 (third place), $11,000 (fourth place), $10,000 (fifth place), $9,000 (sixth place), $8,000 (seventh place), $6,000 (eighth place), $5,000 (ninth place), $4,000 (10th place), $3,000 (11th place), and $2,000 (12th place).
Contingency awards will continue to be presented at all Verizon IndyCar Series events. Non-Leaders Circle entrants can still also compete for payouts, which are awarded to the top three finishers in each race with the exception of the Indy 500. The highest-finishing non-Leaders Circle entrant will receive $20,000, while the second- and third-highest finishers will receive $15,000 and $10,000, respectively.
At the end of the season, the program also allocates a $1m bonus to be shared between the newly crowned series champion and his team. Those finishing between second and tenth place in the final standings get a share of a further $320,000, while the Verizon IndyCar Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year award will receive a $50,000 bonus
The 21 entries selected for this year's Leaders Circle program include three entries apiece from Team Penske and Andretti Autosport, and four from Chip Ganassi Racing. Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves are all included, but the newest fourth member of the Penske squad Simon Pagenaud is not despite finishing in fifth place in the standings in 2014 because of his change of team over the winter.
At Andretti, the eligible drivers are Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti and 2014 Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Ganassi get funding for Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball. Included as a wild card is the the young rookie Sage Karam who will be making his street course début at St Petersburg, Florida.
Also eligible are both drivers from each of KV Racing Technology (Sebastien Bourdais and Stefano Coletti), Schmidt Peterson Motorports (James Hinchcliffe and James Jakes), CFH Racing (Josef Newgarden and the shared #20 entry for Ed Carpenter and Luca Filippi) and Dale Coyne Racing (Carlos Huertas and Francesco Dracone.)
Single-car teams Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Bryan Herta Autosport are also represented, by Graham Rahal and Gabby Chaves respectively.
With AJ Foyt Racing stepping up to a two-car line-up this year, there is only funding for Takuma Sato in 2015, with Jack Hawksworth's new #41 entry not meeting the criteria for selection on this occasion after the British driver moved from BHA over the off-season.
Also not eligible are those entries planning only limited appearances such as Simona de Silvestro, who will be rolling out in the Andretti #25 for the season opener next weekend. Bryan Clauson, Buddy Lazier and Jay Howard are additionally lined up for one-off outings at Indianapolis in May.