After mistake in 2012, Sato learns lesson to win Indy 500

Ivan Schwartz
May 30, 2017

He had six entries in the 33-car field in the 101st running of the event, including Sato, twice Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso and last year's victor, Alexander Rossi.

Fernando Alonso's Indianapolis 500 dream went up in the smoke of a blown engine on Sunday that ended a brilliant Brickyard debut by the Formula One star. It happened, just not by the one some expected.

The victory makes Sato the first Japanese and Asian driver to win the prestigious race. That's why a cheer went up when Sato took the lead over Castroneves and held off the wily Brazilian's final charge. "We only needed one to come through".

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.

Alonso announced last month he would take a break from a subpar F1 season and skip the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indy 500 for Andretti Autosport. "So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn't really matter".

As for the difference between 2012, when Sato crashed in the first turn of the final lap racing Franchitti, Sato said his strategy this year was flawless. "It was a tough, tough race, but Helio really drives fair so I can trust him".

Nevertheless, the day belonged to Takuma Sato and his own Honda-powered Andretti, having been just outside the podium places when the last caution was lifted. The best previous finish by a Japanese driver was fifth by Tora Takagi in 2003. Even before the Dubai-born driver started discussing his third-place finish, the best ever for Dale Coyne Racing, Jones had convinced three-time race victor Helio Castroneves he was ready for the big-time world of IndyCar racing. It is the 41st second-place finish of the Brazilian's 20-year Indy auto career, which ranks second all time. "You did great, especially for your first time", Castroneves said. "It was so close". It won't be the first time I do restarts, pit stops. "They worked their tails off, we saw it all today. We lacked that straight line speed for the last laps". "We avoided disaster and we nearly got (win) No. 4". Castroneves finished second, while rookie Ed Jones placed third.

"Maybe when I'm 80 years old, hopefully I'll have more wins than Roger", he said.

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"I think the second half of the season will be much more competitive and we will enjoy much more".

Spaniards Fernando Alonso, with McLaren Honda Andretti, and Oriol Servia, with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, had to pull out of the race with 21 and 17 laps remaining, respectively - the former due to engine failure and the latter as the result of an accident.

SO, ABOUT ALO: The two-time F1 champion had a auto capable of winning, but Alonso took the blown engine that cost him a chance in stride.

"Obviously disappointed not to finish the race because obviously every race you compete, you want to be at the checkered flag", Alonso said. "Today, (it) was not possible. It was job done, and the last two laps the vehicle worked beautifully".

"I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 vehicle".

If I come back here at least I know how it is.

Despite going a lap down early with handling issues, Chip Ganassi Racing's Max Chilton led the most laps (50) before finishing fourth. “I know how big this news is going to be tomorrow when they wake up in Japan. Dixons vehicle was split in two amid sparks and flames. Neither driver was injured.

“Just a little beaten up there. "It was definitely a bit of a rough ride".

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