Takuma Sato hold’s off Castroneves to win 101st Indy 500

Written by Adrian Beecher
Takuma Sato drinks the milk of champions as he claims the 101st running of the Indy 500. (Photo Credit: Chris Tello / The SkyBoat)
Indianapolis, IN- With just 5 laps to go Takuma Sato made the pass around three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, a pass that would land him his first Indy 500 win in his eighth try. Sato led 17 laps in the race that ended with just 19 cars left on the track and just 16 car’s left on the lead lap.

The first wreck of the day was the scariest of all the cautions.  Jay Howard got loose going into turn one and slammed into the wall, sending his #77 Lucas Oil Honda back down the track where it collected Scott Dixon’s car. Dixon’s #9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda shot up into the air as Howard’s car acted as a ramp. Dixon’s car flipped through the air, flew over the top of Castroneves car and slammed upside down into the catch fence and on top of the safer barrier on the inside wall.

Castroneves of his point of view from the first accident, “ I saw they were flying. I duck, I close my eyes. When I open, I was in the grass. Hold on, you know.” He continued, “When I saw Dixon, I say, okay, he might be in trouble.  So I was already moving toward the left. However, the car, when they connect, they came in the pace so fast towards me in the air, Wow, I really throw the car inside. All of the sudden I just saw the grass. I mean, I was in the grass. Actually, there was a hump. I don’t know what happened, the car just jumped. I’m kind of like, hold on, you know. I thought, Okay, look around. Everything is fine.”

This was a moment that made all 250,000+ in attendance gasp and hold their breath. Luckily, both drivers were able to exit their vehicles without the help of the track safety crews. That happened on lap 53, and on lap 55 the Red Flag was shown to clear the debris off the track. Additionally, Dixon’s car put a hole in the catch fence which had to be repaired. The Red Flag lasted 19 minutes and 40 seconds.

After they had got back to green flag racing on lap 60, they ran just 6 laps before the next caution. This started a barrage of cautions, 11 in total for the day. On lap 100, Castroneves was in the lead, and it marked his 5,700th lap led in the Indy Car series, a mark that ranks 2nd all time. In addition to Castroneves’ historic day, on lap 166 #18 James Davison took the lead, marking the 15th lead change of the day, a new Indy 500 record.

Down the stretch, as the final laps elapsed it was a battle between Max Chilton, who led the most laps in the race (50), Castroneves and Sato.  On lap 190, Chilton was leading Sato by 0.1289 of a second. Then on lap 194, Castroneves passed Chilton and Sato to take the lead in turn 3.  Then lap 195 came and Sato had made his way to 2nd. Sato made a move for the lead coming out of turn four and passed Castroneves at the line by 0.0328 of a second. Then it was a mad dash to the finish, lap 196 Sato led by 0.2369 of a second. The closest that Castroneves was able to cut the lead down was on lap 198. He cut it down to 0.0510 of a second as he bore down, nearly kissing the back of Sato’s Honda as the cars crossed the start-finish line. However on lap 199 as the cars came to the line with the white flag in the air, Sato had a strong lead of 0.3502 seconds. He was able to hold that as he made one final lap around the 2.5 mile at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to claim the Borg-Warner Trophy, kiss the bricks and get a nice ice-cold drink of milk.

“Until three laps to go, you really didn’t know.  Me and Helio went side by side with three laps to go. You’ve got to go for it, run it flat. And we did it, and we pulled away. Fantastic.”, said Takuma Sato of if there was a time when he felt he would win the race.

With his victory, Sato becomes the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500. It is only his 2nd ever Indy car win, his other came at Long Beach in 2013, 74 races ago.

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