Takuma Sato becomes the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500, as he held off Helio Castroneves and denied him a chance at a fourth win at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
USA TODAY Sports
SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Takuma Sato won the 101st Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, holding off three-time winner Helio Castroneves and denying him a shot at history.
Sato follows Alexander Rossi, the rookie who won last year for Andretti Autosport, to earn the traditional milk bath in victory circle.
Sato, from Tokyo, and Castroneves had a battle for the last 10 laps of the race, exchanging the lead in a white-knuckle finish. Sato had won one other time in his 124 starts in the series.
Sato screamed into the team radio after he crossed the yard of bricks and punched the air with his fist over and over..
Indianapolis 500 fans first took notice of Sato in 2012 after the Japanese driver made a daring and infamous attempt to the inside of eventual winner Dario Franchitti on Turn 1 of the final lap of the race. But the passing attempt failed, and Sato went spinning into the wall. Sato erased that legacy to become the first Japanese driver to win the race.
“After 2012 I really need(ed) to correct something I left over,” a still stunned Sato said during his post-race news conference. “Today I was so happy that I made it and won in a good move.”
Sato’s only other win came at Long Beach, 73 races ago. This is his first win on an oval and gives Andretti Autosport three of the past four Indy 500s, following Rossi in 2016 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014.
“I mean, at the Long Beach 2013, I went back to Japan and did a press conference,” Sato said. “There was close to 300 media on the Honda first floor. The fans really, it was crazy good, in a positive way. So this one is even bigger. This is, like, the best win in my life in this moment.
I still just cannot believe it.”
PHOTOS: HISTORY OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500
Castroneves also won here in 2001, 2002 and 2009. He was trying to join elite company as the only drivers to win here four times. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, who was inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame on Thursday, are the only drivers to do so.
Castroneves has finished runner-up three times.
“I have to say one thing, I want to thank Shell and Team Penske for giving me a competitive car. What a race, man. This place is incredible. It’s a mixed feeling, yes, I’m upset. Going to the back, getting a penalty. Ugh,” Castroneves said after climbing from his car.
It looked for a moment early in the race during the first crash — between Jay Howard and Scott Dixon — when Castroneves actually drove under Dixon’s flipping car that he may not have the opportunity to vie for the victory.
“Well, when I saw the 77 went into the wall, I knew it would bounce back. When I saw Dixon flipping, I didn’t think it would be so fast.”
Ed Jones, Max Chilton, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Rossi, Marco Andretti, Gabby Chaves and Carlos Munoz rounded out the top 10.
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Fernando Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion who was attempting his first Indianapolis 500, finished 24th after starting fifth and leading the race several times, the first on lap 37.
His Honda engine expired as he came down the frontstretch after 179 laps. There has been talk all month about the unreliability of the Honda program, which has seen several failures here.
“I felt the noise and then I saw the smoke. It’s a shame. Who knows what it could be?” Alonso said. “I mean the whole day has been a very good experience, from the presentation and the racing was fun – it was nice.
“It was a very nice surprise to come here with the best in oval racing and be able to be competitive.
“Yeah, if I come back, it will be easier (the) second time. … This has been one of the best experiences in my career.”
There was tremendous buzz around the Spanish star, who is attempting to win the Triple Crown of racing. He already has one leg, the Monaco Grand Prix, which he chose to skip this weekend to try the Indy 500. He was met with a warm reception and often said he was overwhelmed by the fan support.
He was among a six-car Andretti Autosport contingent that dominated most of the race. Alonso, Sato, Hunter-Reay and Rossi all led multiple laps. But on lap 137, Hunter-Reay’s Honda engine expired while he was leading the race. Marco Andretti, always a fan favorite, continued to have bad luck in the series’ crown jewel, but still managed a top-10 finish. Howard, the last Andretti driver, was out early his vicious crash with Dixon in Turn 2.
Howard got into the gray marbles and outside the racing line in Turn 2, hit the wall and came down the track and was hit Dixon, who started on the pole.
Dixon’s car went airborne and over Castroneves, hit the top of the wall, flipped and came down wheels up. His car was destroyed. Dixon was checked and released from the infield care center immediately after the crash, but returned later to get a boot on his left foot and ankle.
A photographer was taken to the infield care center after ducking below the retaining wall when Dixon’s car hit.
A five-car accident took out Team Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden, plus James Hinchcliffe, Oriol Servia and Jay Davison, who was substituting for the injured Sebastien Bourdais.
Contributing: Jim Ayello, The Indianapolis Star
PHOTOS: 101st INDIANAPOLIS 500
INDIANAPOLIS 500 RESULTS
Sunday from the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):
1. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, running.
2. (19) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 200, running.
3. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200, running.
4. (15) Max Chilton, Honda, 200, running.
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 200, running.
6. (18) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 200, running.
7. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 200, running.
8. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, running.
9. (25) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet, 200, running.
10. (24) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 200, running.
11. (2) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 200, running.
12. (14) Graham Rahal, Honda, 200, running.
13. (13) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 200, running.
14. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 200, running.
15. (31) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 200, running.
16. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 200, running.
17. (28) Pippa Mann, Honda, 199, running.
18. (29) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 194, running.
19. (22) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 186, running.
20. (33) James Davison, Honda, 183, contact.
21. (12) Oriol Servia, Honda, 183, contact.
22. (17) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 183, contact.
23. (9) Will Power, Chevrolet, 183, contact.
24. (5) Fernando Alonso, Honda, 179, mechanical.
25. (16) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 166, mechanical.
26. (32) Zach Veach, Chevrolet, 155, mechanical.
27. (10) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 136, mechanical.
28. (21) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 125, mechanical.
29. (30) Buddy Lazier, Chevrolet, 118, contact.
30. (26) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 65, contact.
31. (27) Jack Harvey, Honda, 65, contact.
32. (1) Scott Dixon, Honda, 52, contact.
33. (20) Jay Howard, Honda, 45, contact.
Winners average speed: 155.395 mph.
Time of Race: 3:13.03.3584.
Margin of Victory: .2011 seconds.
Cautions: 11 for 50 laps.
Lead changes: 35 amoung 15 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Dixon 1-5, Kanaan 6-27, Carpenter 28-29, Hildebrand 30, Montoya 31, Carpenter 32-34, Rossi 35-36, Alonso 37-42, Rossi 43-47, Alonso 48-60, Rossi 61-64, Sato 65-75, Rossi 76-78, Hunter-Reay 79-81, Power 82-83, Chilton 84-86, Hunter-Reay 87-89, Rossi 90-93, Hunter-Reay 94-95, Castroneves 96-103, Hunter-Reay 104, Rossi 105-109, Hunter-Reay 110-112, Rahal 113-114, Hunter-Reay 115-129, Alonso 130-134, Hunter-Reay 135, Alonso 136-138, Chilton 139-142, Kimball 143-147, Chilton 148-165, Davison 166-167, Hildebrand 168, Chilton 169-193, Castroneves 194, Sato 195-200.
Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Castroneves 245, Pagenaud 234, Sato 234, Dixon 234, Rossi 190, Kanaan 188, Power 186, Newgarden 186, Jones 185, Hinchcliffe 170, Chilton 170.