Sato gives Ja­pan first ti­tle

A For­mula One driver wins at Brick­yard, just not the one ev­ery­one was ex­pect­ing


IN­DI­ANAPO­LIS — At the end of 500 miles around In­di­anapo­lis Mo­tor Speed­way, it was a for­mer For­mula One driver who took the check­ered flag. He even drove for Andretti Au­tosport. It just wasn’t Fer­nando Alonso. Takuma Sato be­came the first Ja­panese win­ner of the In­di­anapo­lis 500 on Sun­day when he de­nied He­lio Cas­tron­eves a record-ty­ing fourth vic­tory as the two traded the lead in the clos­ing laps.

“This is go­ing to be mega big” in Ja­pan, said Sato. “A lot of the Ja­panese fans are fol­low­ing the IndyCar Se­ries and many, many flew over for the In­di­anapo­lis 500. We showed the great re­sult to­day and I am very proud of it.”

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 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.

The tub of the car stayed in­tact and Dixon was able to get out on his own to a roar from the crowd and walk to an am­bu­lance. The race was placed un­der red flag and crews be­gan to clean up de­bris.

“Just a lit­tle beaten up there. It was def­i­nitely a rough ride,” Dixon said. “We had a great shot. We had got­ten a lit­tle loose but they had dialed it in.”

Dixon had col­lided with Jay Howard, who blamed the in­ci­dent on Ryan Hunter-Reay. He was a cou­ple of laps down when Hunter-Reay tried to get around him and that forced him to the top of the track, where he hit the wall.

That im­pact sent Howard across the track and Dixon had nowhere to go.

The Andretti fam­ily has strug­gled for decades to win this race, but as a car owner, Michael Andretti cer­tainly knows the way to vic­tory lane.

Sato’s vic­tory gave Andretti a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive win in “The Great­est Spectacle in Rac­ing.” An Andretti driver has now won the 500 three times in the last four years, and five times over­all dat­ing to 2005 with the late Dan Whel­don.

Last year, it was with rookie Alexan­der Rossi. This time it is with Sato, who joined the team just this sea­son. The Andretti camp ex­panded to six cars for the 500 to add Alonso, a two-time F1-cham­pion.

Cana­dian driver James Hinch­cliffe’s day ended when he was in­volved in a crash with 17 laps to go.

Six cars never seemed to spread the Andretti 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 he was sent to the pad­dock when his en­gine blew with 20 laps re­main­ing.

The crowd gave the Spa­niard 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 open­wheel rac­ing and be com­pet­i­tive.”

He still drank from a car­ton of milk to close out his ex­pe­ri­ence at Indy, and didn’t rule out a po­ten­tial re­turn.

“The last two weeks, I came here ba­si­cally to prove my­self, to chal­lenge my­self,” Alonso said. “I know that I can be as quick as any­one in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as any­one in an Indy car.”

Sato also had to hold off the savvy Cas­tron­eves. In a Chevro­let for Team Penske, Cas­tron­eves briefly took the lead but couldn’t make it stick as Sato grabbed it back. Cas­tron­eves was dis­ap­pointed to fall short of the four-time win­ners club as it was his third run­ner-up fin­ish.

“Be­ing sec­ond again sucks, be­ing so close to get­ting my fourth,” Cas­tron­eves said. “I’m re­ally try­ing. I’m not giv­ing up this dream and I know it’s go­ing to hap­pen.”

The mar­gin of vic­tory was 0.2011 sec­onds and the win 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 2 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 hug his driver.

“I was point­ing in the right di­rec­tion into (Turn) One,” said Sato, who was con­grat­u­lated in vic­tory lane by Fran­chitti.

It was only the sec­ond IndyCar vic­tory for Sato, who won driv­ing for A.J. Foyt in Long Beach in 2013 — a span of 74 races.

Ed Jones fin­ished a ca­reer-best third and was fol­lowed by Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan, the high­est fin­ish­ers for Chip Ganassi Rac­ing. Two-time win­ner Juan Pablo Mon­toya was sixth.


Pole sit­ter Scott Dixon, top, and Jay Howard came away un­in­jured af­ter a crash at Turn 1 where Dixon’s car struck Howard’s and went air­borne.


Takuma Sato takes the tra­di­tional win­ner’s milk bath af­ter be­com­ing the first Ja­panese win­ner of the Indy 500.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.