Ja­panese driver wins Indy 500

Sato holds off He­lio to give Andretti another ti­tle in ‘The Great­est Spec­ta­cle in Rac­ing’

Cape Breton Post - - Sports - BY JENNA FRYER

The Andretti fam­ily has strug­gled for decades to win the In­di­anapo­lis 500.

As a car owner, though, Michael Andretti cer­tainly knows the way to vic­tory lane.

Takuma Sato won the In­di­anapo­lis 500 on Sun­day to give Andretti a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive vic­tory in “The Great­est Spec­ta­cle in Rac­ing.” An Andretti driver has now won the 500 three times in the last four years.

Last year, it was with rookie Alexan­der Rossi. This time it is with Sato, who joined the team just this sea­son and had largely been over­looked at In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way as the Andretti camp ex­panded to six cars for the 500 with the ad­di­tion of For­mula One driver Fer­nando Alonso.

It never seemed to spread the team too thin, and the main is­sue fac­ing Andretti Au­tosport was the re­li­a­bil­ity of its Honda en­gines.

Alonso put on a thrilling show and even led 27 laps – third most in the race – but the twotime For­mula One cham­pion was sent to the pad­dock when his en­gine blew with 20 laps re­main­ing.

The Honda teams had a clear horse­power ad­van­tage over Chevro­let, but the en­gine maker had se­ri­ous ques­tions about re­li­a­bil­ity. Be­fore Alonso’s fail­ure, 2014 win­ner Ryan Hunter-Reay lost his en­gine. Hunter-Reay had led 28 laps and was a strong con­tender late.

Sato had to hold off He­lio Cas­tron­eves, who was try­ing to win for a record-ty­ing fourth time, in the clos­ing laps. Cas­tron­eves, in a Chevro­let for Team Penske, briefly took the lead but couldn’t make it stick as Sato grabbed it

back. The mar­gin of vic­tory was 0.2011 sec­onds – and it was re­demp­tion for Sato, who crashed

while try­ing to beat Dario Fran­chitti on the fi­nal lap of the 2012 race.

A joy­ful Sato dumped a bot­tle of two per cent milk over his head, re­ceived a kiss from the Indy 500 Princess and raised his fin­ger in the air.

Michael Andretti ran down pit lane to reach Sato’s crew, then rushed to vic­tory lane to hug his driver, the first Ja­panese win­ner of the Indy 500.

“It was a tough, tough, race. He­lio re­ally drives well,” Sato said. “It was a fan­tas­tic race.”

As for the dif­fer­ence be­tween 2012, when Sato crashed in the first turn of the fi­nal lap rac­ing Fran­chitti, Sato said his strat­egy this year was per­fect.

“I was point­ing in the right di­rec­tion into (Turn) 1,” he said.

Cas­tron­eves was dis­ap­pointed to fall short of the four-time win­ners club.

“I re­ally thought we had it,” the Brazil­ian said.

Max Chilton fin­ished third, the high­est driver for Chip Ganassi Rac­ing, and was fol­lowed by for­mer 500 win­ners Tony Kanaan and Juan Pablo Mon­toya.

Alonso, who had a spec­tac­u­lar race, sim­ply fell vic­tim to his en­gine in the wan­ing laps. The crowd gave him a stand­ing ova­tion as he climbed from his car.

“I felt the noise, the en­gine fric­tion, I backed off and I saw the smoke and yeah, it’s a shame,” Alonso said. “It’s a very nice sur­prise to come here with big names, big guys, the best in open-wheel rac­ing and be com­pet­i­tive.” Cana­dian driver James Hinch­cliffe’s day came to an end when he was in­volved in a crash with 17 laps to go.

Pole sit­ter Scott Dixon, al­ready hav­ing a rough week be­cause he was robbed at gun­point at Taco Bell hours after turn­ing the fastest qual­i­fy­ing ef­fort in 21 years, was knocked out of the race in a ter­ri­fy­ing crash in which his car sailed through the air and landed cock­pit-first atop the in­side safety fence.

Dixon’s car was split in two amid sparks and flames.

AP PHOTO

Takuma Sato cel­e­brates after win­ning the In­di­anapo­lis 500 Sun­day in In­di­anapo­lis.

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