Sato survives a day of crashes
INDIANAPOLIS — Takuma Sato of Tokyo held off Helio Castroneves, a three-time winner, in a stirring duel to the finish Sunday in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, a battle littered with crashes that destroyed millions of dollars worth of race cars. No serious injuries were reported.
Sato, a 40-year-old former Formula 1 driver with just one previous victory in IndyCar racing, is the first Indianapolis 500 winner from Japan. He nearly won here in 2012 when he challenged the eventual winner Dario Franchitti for the lead at the finish but spun out. His previous best finish in the race was 13th.
Ed Jones came in third, just behind Castroneves, who was a mere three car lengths from Sato at the checkered flag. Max Chilton was fourth, and Tony Kanaan fifth.
Sato, one of six drivers in the race for the potent Honda-powered Andretti team, was perhaps the least heralded part of a lineup that included Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso, former Indy champ Ryan Hunter-Reay and star-crossed Marco Andretti.
But Sato, who passed Castroneves for the lead with just two laps to go, would not be denied.
“Unbelievable,” Sato said in Victory Circle. “Helio is just a gentleman, and I knew I was racing against a real champion. When Helio came up beside me with three laps to go, I decided this was the moment and I just had to go for it.”
A five-car, chain-reaction mashup with just 17 circuits left in the 200-lap race around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval took out top contenders Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Oriel Servia, James Hinchcliffe and James Davidson. It also set up the frantic fight to the finish.
The race was briefly stopped in the early going after a death-defying crash involving the top qualifier, Scott Dixon. Dixon, the 2008 Indy winner and a four-time IndyCar champion, was able to hobble away from the shattered remains of his car without a serious injury. “I really thought we had it,” Castroneves said. “I think I bent the throttle, I pressed it so hard. I bumped Sato’s car a few times. That thing must be indestructible.”
Castroneves was lucky to be in the race at all, at that point.
The pace was unremittingly furious for the first quarter of the race, but then Jay Howard’s car bounced off the outside wall, came across the track and collected the trailing machine of Dixon.
Dixon’s car was launched high into the air, and it seemed to float momentarily, until it landed broadside on the inside guardrail. During its hang time, Castroneves actually drove his car under Dixon’s; he sped by in the infield grass without incurring a scratch.
Dixon’s car lost its engine and rear wheel assembly in the first big impact, and then most everything else except for the driver’s safety capsule before it stopped tumbling. Neither driver was seriously hurt.
“I’m fine,” Dixon said after a mandatory checkup at the infield hospital. If anyone expected his ardour to be dampened by such a crash, Dixon quickly dispelled all doubts, saying, “I can’t wait to come back next year.”
Scott Dixon of New Zealand leads the field during the 101st Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on Sunday before more than 300,000 people.
Takuma Sato of Japan, driver of the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda, celebrates after winning the 101st Indianapolis 500.