For the second year in a row, Andretti Autosport found itself in victory lane at the Indianapolis 500. Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The 40-year-old driver held off Helio Castroneves to notch his second win in the IndyCar Series. The win marks Andretti Autosport’s third win in four years and fifth victory overall in the Indy 500.
Fourth-place finisher Max Chilton seemed to be on track to notch his first ever win at Indianapolis. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver led 50 of the race’s 200 laps. With nine laps to go, Sato attempted to pass Chilton, but ended up falling back to third, behind Castroneves. On lap 193, Castroneves completed the pass for the lead. A Castroneves victory would have given the Brazilian driver a record-tying fourth win. Instead, Sato was able to snatch the lead from him with five laps to go. Castroneves finished second, while rookie Ed Jones placed third.
After the race, Sato acknowledged the Team Penske driver for allowing him the opportunity to compete for the victory.
“I know Helio is always going to charge, but he’s just such a gentleman and such a fair player.”
Before today’s race, Sato’s most memorable moment came in the 2012 Indianapolis 500. On the last lap, Sato, who was running in the second position, attempted to pass race leader Dario Franchitti. Unsuccessful, Sato spun out and hit the wall in turn 1. The wreck dropped Sato to a 15th place finish.
Today, though, Sato got to complete the long-standing winner’s tradition of drinking a quart of milk.
The other big story out of Indianapolis 500 was a crash involving Scott Dixon and Jay Howard on lap 53.
As Motorsport detailed, the crash occurred when Howard’s Honda “bounced off the outside wall at Turn 1, and stumbled down the banking, right into the path of Dixon.” The impact of the collision sent debris from Dixon’s Honda flying across the racetrack, as his car went airborne. The pole sitter’s car flipped end-over-end and completed a 180-degree rotation, before hitting the barrier of the inside wall. Flames shot from the machine as it continued to flip and spin down the inside wall. The race was placed under the red flag for several minutes to allow for repairs to the inside fencing.
Fortunately, the Indianapolis Star reported that Dixon and Howard were able to walk away from the wreck relatively injury-free. Dixon was later seen leaving the infield medical center with a boot on his left foot.
RTV 6 News quoted Dixon as calling the incident a “rough ride.”
“Just a little beaten up there. It was definitely a rough ride. We had a great shot. We had gotten a little loose but they had dialed it in.”
The wreck ended Dixon’s chance to vie for his second Indianapolis 500 victory. The New Zealander was seen as a slight favorite after he notched the fastest pole speed since 1996. Dixon qualified with a speed of 232.164 mph.
While Takuma Sato was consistently one of the top cars in practice, most of the weekend’s news focused on his Andretti Autosport teammates.
First was the news that Fernando Alonso, a two-time champion in Formula One, would skip out of the Monaco Grand Prix to race in his first Indianapolis 500. Alonso started from the fifth position and led 27 laps, but a blown engine on lap 179 relegated the Spaniard to a 24th place finish.
Then it was the dreaded Andretti curse. With Marco Andretti, son of Michael and grandson of Mario, racing in the 101st outing of the Indianapolis 500, could a 47-year-old curse finally be broken? ESPN compared the curse to the Chicago Cubs, who were able to exorcise their Billy Goat curse and win the World Series last year. Alas, the supposed curse remains. Andretti finished in the eighth position.
With the first race of the day completed, fans turned their attention to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Under the lights, NASCAR’s premier drivers will compete in the Coca Cola 600. When that checkered flag waves, the longest day in racing – 1,100 miles – will be over until next Memorial Day weekend.
[Featured Image by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images]