Takuma Sato Wins Indianapolis 500

The 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 had it all. Incredible passes, spectacular crashes, unpredictability, real drama, an epic finish, and a popular winner. It didn’t play out the way anyone thought it would, which is almost always the case. Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500, and he did it in style.

Sato was able to wash away the bad memories of five years ago, when he spun in Turn 1 trying to take the lead from Dario Franchitti on the final lap of the 2012 race. Today, he drank the milk in victory lane, while Helio Castroneves could only taste the agony of defeat. Sato beat Castroneves to the yard of bricks by 0.2011 of a second. The Brazilian was denied once again from his fourth Indy 500 win, and has now finished runner-up in the race three times.

It was a thrilling race, which yielded surprising performances from the under dogs. Rookie Ed Jones had been fast all month, but not many people thought he would be battling for the win in the closing laps. He finished in third place, with Max Chilton right behind him. Chilton led the most laps (50) in the race, mostly in the latter stages.

101st Indianapolis 500 Box Score

This is just the second career win in the Verizon IndyCar Series for Sato, who becomes the 71st driver to win the iconic race. This was the sixth-closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500, which was another victory for Michael Andretti’s team. In fact, Andretti has won three of the last four Indy 500 races. Three of their full-time drivers have now won the historic race; the long exception being Michael’s son, Marco.

The race had a clean start, and stayed that way past the first quarter of the distance. On Lap 53 however, things turned sour. Jay Howard got into the marbles in Turn 1, which sent him into the outside wall. He came down back into traffic, right into the path of pole sitter Scott Dixon. It was a scary ride for Dixon, as he launched into the air and twisted around, eventually slamming into the top of the SAFER barrier on the inside wall of the short chute between Turns 1 and 2. Miraculously, both drivers were able to escape without injury. From the on-board camera on the rear of Castroneves’ car, you can see how close Dixon came to landing on top of him.

After a red flag to repair the wall and clean up debris, the race resumed. The rest of the race was filled with nine more yellow flags, which resulted in a variety of strategies from the teams. Unfortunately there were some big name contenders that were unable to finish the race. The first was 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay. He was a popular pick entering the race, and was at the front all day. He led 28 laps before his Honda engine went up in smoke.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only Andretti car to suffer the same fate. Ironically, two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso experienced the same issue with his Honda engine. Just 20 laps away from the finish, Alonso’s run came to an end. It was an impressive performance though, as he led 27 total laps. All month long he conquered every challenge thrown his way, and did so with ease. After the race, Alonso seemed ready to have another shot at it.

Tony Kanaan gave Chip Ganassi two cars in the top-five on Sunday. It is the 8th top-five finish in the Indy 500 for Kanaan. He and fellow Brazilian, Castroneves, are tied for the most among active drivers. Juan Montoya had a quiet day, but the two-time Indy 500 winner came home in sixth position. Last year’s winner Alexander Rossi was strong all day, and ended up in the 7th spot. His teammate Marco Andretti rebounded for an 8th place finish, after an early wing issue and dodging major accidents kept him out of contention.

Gabby Chaves returned to the Indy 500 this year, with new team Harding Racing led by Larry Curry. It was a fantastic result for them, finishing 9th. They will run at least a couple more races this season, at Texas and Pocono. Carlos Munoz rounded out the top ten on Sunday, as he and Sato essentially swapped rides this past off-season.

After such a promising qualifying weekend, the race didn’t go nearly as well for Ed Carpenter Racing. Both Carpenter and JR Hildebrand suffered setbacks in the race, which resulted in finishes of 11th and 16th on Sunday. Graham Rahal was on a rocket headed to the front of the field, when a cut rear tire forced them to make a stop to pit lane. It was another punch to the gut for the RLL team, who hasn’t been able to catch a break yet this season.

While multiple-Indy 500 winners Castroneves and Montoya had solid results for Team Penske, the other three drivers struggled. Simon Pagenaud improved nine positions, but finished 14th. Josef Newgarden was collected in a pile up on Lap 184, and Will Power had mechanical issues and finished in 23rd position. The five Penske drivers combined to lead a total of 12 laps on Sunday. Andretti led the most with 95, and Ganassi led a total of 82.

After the busiest month of the year, there is no time for rest. Teams will make the trip up north to Detroit for a double-header at Belle Isle. The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will run on Saturday and Sunday. Both races will begin at 3:30 PM ET on ABC. Qualifying will take place each morning prior to the race, and will be streamed online via IndyCar.

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Driver Quotes

Simon Pagenaud: “It wasn’t the finish we wanted today for the Menards Chevrolet team. But for the big picture it was a decent day. We’re still in that top group in points as we head to Detroit. That’s a place that suits us pretty well. The (Indianapolis) 500 remains a goal and we’ll take another shot at it next year.”

Josef Newgarden: “It was an OK day. We just got caught up in that wreck there at the end. That hurt us. When we were up front we were good. We seemed to keep racing ourselves toward the front of the field. Then we would just get dropped back by a couple of issues. If we would have been up front the whole time, I think we could have finished in the top five. We performed really well today, things just didn’t go out way.”

Helio Castroneves: “The Shell Fuel Rewards Chevy team almost got it done today. It was so close. We’ve got to keep going. I take my hat off to Takuma (Sato) for having a strong car today. He really seemed to be getting better as the race went along. I say, ‘great job’ to my guys. They worked their tails off. We saw it all today. We were in the back and we led some laps. We avoided disaster and we almost got number four.”

Conor Daly: “There was a big stack-up in Turn 2 and then we were about five-wide going into the back straight. For some reason, the No. 83 car in front of me got on the brakes a little bit. I had to pop to the outside where I had two cars on either side of me. As soon as I got into the corner, the car just got a little bit loose. We had just adjusted the downforce on the car in the stop before and that was the first time we were in clean air. It pinned the front a little bit. I caught it once, but I couldn’t catch it three times. It was a shame. I shouldn’t have done that. It just sucks. I don’t really think I ever made contact with anyone. It was just very unexpected for them to jump on the brakes and they went into the corner. It’s just a shame that we had to lose it like that because the car was quite nice. It was fun up until then, but I am okay.”

James Hinchcliffe: “Pretty awful end to the day for the Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports crew.  It was such a back and forth day. At some points we had a really quick car and at some points we were struggling a bit. At some points, we were great in the pits and sometimes we lost a bunch of spots. It was just a classic 500 mile ebb and flow sort of race. We found ourselves in the right place at the end, inside the top 10, with just a handful of laps to go. Unfortunately, on a restart, which is where we have been strong the last few times in making up some spots, Oriol (Servia) and James Davison were running hard and got into each other. I slowed up to avoid the wreck and unfortunately, Will (Power) lost control trying to avoid everything and just collected us both. Wrong place wrong time. Gutted for everyone on the team because we didn’t have the same pace as last year but we were trucking away and fighting and got ourselves in a good spot at the end, so thank you very much to them for all their hard work all month.”

Mikhail Aleshin: “It’s been a disappointing race for me and for the entire team. Everything was going fine. We had a good pace and a good strategy, and then (Ed) Carpenter crashed into my side on the right and that was it. I lost half of my sidepod, and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys did the best they could with the tape. Obviously, I was losing too much speed on the straights and I couldn’t do anything after that. The guys did absolutely zero mistakes in the pit stops and I’m pretty sure we would have been way up there if that hadn’t happened.”

Max Chilton: “The Gallagher Honda was struggling a lot early in the race and we even went a lap down. But we kept our heads down, kept going and got a break. I don’t think anyone has ever won this race without a little bit of luck. When we did end up getting out front, the car was really quick, and you can see why this place is so special and so electric in that moment. I held (Takuma) Sato off with everything I had, but when the cars gang up behind you, they get a massive run and you can only do so much as the leader. As soon as they got past, I wasn’t as confident in the dirty air. To come from a lap down to lead and have a chance to win here at Indy is a massive accomplishment for the whole team.”

Scott Dixon: “I just got a little beaten up there. It was a bit of a rough ride. I’m bummed for the team and for Camping World. We got a little loose on the first stint there, but they dialed it in, and we started to make some progress. Overall, I think we were a little bit light on downforce but for later on in the race that would have been the right move to have. I’m just bummed for them and glad everyone is OK. It was definitely a wild ride. Thank you for Dallara and the safety of these cars. It’s tough. I was hoping Jay (Howard) would stay against the wall. I’d already picked a way to go and there was nowhere else to go. I’m glad he’s OK too. It makes you believe in the safety of these cars and the progress they’ve made.”

Tony Kanaan: “It was a survival race as you can see. A lot of cars were either involved in a crash or had a mechanical failure. I knew it was going to be a shootout in the end. That’s really all we had in the No. 10 NTT Data Honda. I actually ran over debris at some point during the race and the under wing of the car was broken, so I knew toward the end that I didn’t have as good of a car as I did at the beginning of the race. I have to say though that I love to see first-time winners here at the Indianapolis 500 and this guy (Takuma Sato) was huge in Japan already so I can’t even imagine now.”

Spencer Pigot: “Very long, frustrating race. I think there’s still something I’m missing or something’s gone away with the car since the (practice) crash. It never really felt right and it was just very difficult to drive, but we fought through a tough day. We didn’t give up. The guys kept working hard and I can’t thank them enough for the recovery and for putting this all together.”

Will Power: “I’m not sure what happened out there. All I know that I was sliding backward. It was an up and down day for the Verizon Chevy. We were able to stick our nose in there a few times and we were stuck back in the back other times. Then, we got caught up in that deal at the end that ended our day. We’ll move on to Detroit. The thing about this race is that we get to turn the page pretty quickly.”

Carlos Munoz: “A really tough race. It was a really long race for me if I’m honest. I just hung in with the car. We had no sign of this because on Friday we did long runs and it was pretty good. Today we just lost the car completely. At the start of the race, it was pretty good because I was heading to the front, and on each restart, it was good but it seemed that after 10 laps, we just dropped like a stone. We don’t know why. We still finished 10th. I think it is the best result for the team in the (Indianapolis) 500 in a long time even though we struggled a lot. We just have to figure out what was going on.”

Graham Rahal: “The car handling was good but we just didn’t have the top speeds that the other guys did. We got really unlucky with the flat tire which pretty much killed us. We had the Steak ‘n Shake car in the hunt to win up until then. When we got the flat it pretty much ruined the race for us. It’s frustrating. It’s the second flat tire we’ve had while in the top five in the closing stages of the race this season. I’m disappointed. You work your butt off to get in the top five and when you finally get there, once again it hits the fan. We got up to the top three and led a lap but that’s where we wanted to be at the end and it just didn’t work out. We’re all pushing hard out here and you could tell that from the very beginning. Guys were blocking like crazy, going nuts, so the tempo was set very high from the beginning.”

Oriol Servia: “I had a great car. In the first stint, we went backwards but then we changed the car a little bit and I think the Manitowoc car was a rocket ship. I felt so confident on restarts; we had the pace. To end the race this way is just a shame. Only one person is happy at the end of the day at this place of the 33 drivers. I was aggressive but clean all race. When (James) Davison was outside, he just closed, closed, closed on me and I had nowhere to go. I turned as much as I could. I was off the throttle. It just did one little move and we touched and that was it. It is what it is. You cannot go back in time, unfortunately. I’m just so pleased with the effort of everyone on the team. We never gave up at the beginning and we just had an amazing pace. I’ll be back. I’m going to win this race one day. I am.”

Sebastian Saavedra: “We accomplished the mission we started less than two months ago. To finish this first Indy 500 with both cars intact is a victory of its own. I’m very proud of the whole organization for putting in such a professional effort. It was rough out there. We were not as competitive as we wanted, but hey, that’s something that is expected your first time out. So, kudos to the whole team. I want to thank the AFS/Juncos Racing guys for all the amazing pit stops and David Cripps for a great strategy. Altogether, I’m just looking forward to what’s being built here because the future is very bright for this team. I wish them and the whole organization the best.”

James Davison:  “I am obviously very proud of the team for the strong run that we had. In all honesty, I need to see a replay. I felt I was coming out of my steering and I got hit by (Oriol) Servia. Whether that’s the case or not, I need to see a replay. It’s very frustrating for all of us, we all had good cars. I was racing those guys, I was ahead of (Takuma) Sato for a while. Yeah, he’s gone and won it, and that’s awesome for him. I did the best I could with the limited practice I had. I made a couple of mistakes here and there so sorry to any of the drivers that I may have upset. I just got a good restart and felt I got tagged, so I need to see a replay to see if that’s indeed the case.”

Ed Jones: “It was a great race for us. Great car I’ve had the whole month really. We were running through traffic but the race was so up and down for us. Solid start. We were running in the top 10, 11, for most of the first half. Then when Dixon had his crash, thankfully those guys are OK, but I ran over some debris. It damaged the floor and also the rear wing. We had to change the rear wing. That sent me to the back of the field. We had to claw our way back up again. Then we got some luck back. The last yellow, we actually pitted right before it, so it put us near the front. But then I had some bad luck again. I actually damaged my front wing. We had a big hole in it. My legs got pretty cold, to be honest. I had wind blowing into them like crazy. Also created a lot of drag. That meant I was really good in the corners catching up to other cars, but it was difficult in the straights. I couldn’t pull up to them. We lacked that straight line speed for, I’d say, the last 40 laps. It was really hard for me to defend or even attack, which was really frustrating because I think we had the car to win today. Great job to (Takuma) Sato and Helio (Castroneves). But, so frustrating. I don’t know how many opportunities you get to be in that battle.”

Ed Carpenter: “The start of the day, the race was going our way. We were running up front but then we started losing positions, had a couple bad pit stops and got shuffled back. We were running around people we shouldn’t even have been running with. On the restart, I got hung out because I didn’t see Pippa (Mann) outside, while I was trying to go to the outside. When I saw her, I hit the brakes but tore up the front wing and knocked the toe out. It’s a bummer, the result didn’t show what type of car we had. We lost track position at the wrong times and made for a disappointing day, but congratulations to Takuma (Sato). He’s a great guy and driver who has been close here before. We will be back next year, but we’ve got some work to do. Our competitors are tough right now, so we have to make ourselves better.”

JR Hildebrand: “We were able to run up front when we were there, but I’m not positive we had anything for those guys at the end. We definitely had a fifth or sixth place car. We could keep station and pick guys off when they made mistakes when we were running closer to clean air. I’m just annoyed about the drive-through penalty. I understand the rules, but the entire field went and the car in front of me didn’t. I’m not sure what they expect all of us to do. It’s a lousy way to end a race where the team did a great job and the Preferred Freezer Car was good enough to hang on up there. We made some great strategy calls to help get us back to the front group of cars. For executing at a high level all day, for it to end like that, leaves you feeling empty inside. That’s how this place works and we will come back with another shot next year.”

Juan Montoya: “Our Fitzgerald Glider Kits Chevy was good. We had a problem there in the beginning when we ran out of gas in Turn 3. We should have had another half-gallon in the car. It put is in a tough position because we lost a lot of positions there. From there to come back to where we finished was great. We ran 12th or 13th most of the day and then the car was really good at the end of the race. The balance just wasn’t there. Then I told the guys on the last stop, let’s take swing and we did and the car came to life. I would have liked to have had some more laps at the end.”

Sage Karam: “Something was wrong since the start of the race. I had no radio communication with my team. I could hear them. They couldn’t hear me so we had to work on a code to communicate with each other on the fly. Just keying up for yes or no and turning fuel mixtures for more wing, less wing, rear wing, front wing so it was kind of sketchy out there but we were doing OK. We were running inside the top 15 and the top 10 shortly but something was killing the battery in the car, killed the radio. So, an electrical gremlin pulled us out of this one. The car was really good all month. It’s a shame – the Dreyer and Reinbold Racing boys, Mecum Auto Auctions put together a great car this month. It’s a shame to see it go down like that. But that’s racing. The beauty of this place is it makes you want to come back more and more because you go through all these hard times. You just want to win.”

Takuma Sato: “It was obviously a very tough race but Helio (Castroneves) really drives fair. I can trust him coming from the outside. It was a fantastic race. Until three laps to go I really didn’t know. When Helio came side by side with three to go that was the moment I really had to go for it. And we did it and pulled away and it was fantastic. It is unbelievable. I really have to thank A.J. Foyt because the last four years he gave me this tremendous experience on his team and now Michael Andretti gave me a fantastic opportunity with his team. I want to thank all the 26 car guys and engineers, Honda, everyone. This is really awesome. The organization is unbelievable. I’m so proud of the whole team. It’s just a great victory. I’m so proud.” (On if he dreamed of winning this race) “I dreamed of something like this since I was 12. You don’t just dream about it. Obviously, you prepare for the race. You want to win the race. I had huge ambition and I had to try.”

Marco Andretti: “I’m happy for the team. It was a huge win for Honda but not our day. We definitely missed on it. I was sort of hanging on. I had a pretty lucky day, to be honest. I got through some big wrecks. Somebody was looking over us there. This was just one of those salvage kind of days. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the car, so we tried to bring home something.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay: It’s frustrating to end your day like that, especially when you have a good car like that. It’s two years in a row that Andretti Autosport has given me a car to win this race, and it’s two years in a row that circumstances outside our control have taken us out. This race is really hard to win, even when you have everything lined up. I had a great car all month; super fast. I knew what I needed from the car today and I knew after the first stint that I had a good shot at it. It’s unfortunate. Our season has been one of bad luck. Honda was pushing really hard. We had the speed this month on the big oval and they wanted to win this race like we do. I’ll take a fast car any day over one trotting around in the back. There wasn’t a car that I came up on that I couldn’t get by at will, and there aren’t many days like that at the speedway. Hopefully, we’ll come back next year and be even stronger.”

Fernando Alonso: “I’m disappointed not to finish the race because obviously, every race you compete in, you want to be at the checkered flag. Today that was not possible. It was a great experience, the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. 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. It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know. One lap you put on the lead there, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking at that moment if Zak (Brown) or someone from the team was taking a picture, because I want that picture at home. Thanks to INDYCAR, amazing experience. Thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here. Congratulations to Sato San, to Andretti. We have been sharing the last two weeks all the meetings in the morning, the meetings in the afternoon. Takuma was a lot of help, coming from F1. The last two laps I was on my knees really pushing Sato. Extremely happy for the final result.”

Zach Veach: “Today was very up and down. We had a great first stint, picked up a few positions, running in 26th or so. Then I made a rookie mistake getting into my box, locking up my tires. Because of that we started after our first stint 3 laps down. I think we got a couple of those laps back. We were working our way through the field, trying to get back to where we needed to be. Then I had a battery die in the car, which I got lucky and coasted back to pit lane. They replaced the battery and sent me back out. Second battery died, but we got lucky to come back and fix it before we got stuck on track. Finally, our race ended 150 laps in or somewhere around there because the third battery died and we just couldn’t make it back to pit lane this time. Extremely heartbroken for my team, so much effort went into this. I’m just proud to showcase the Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim over the past couple of weeks and throughout the race. As far as the rookie learning experience, there’s nothing quite like this. We just gotta be happy about the positives and improve on the negatives and focus on when I can get back in an IndyCar.”

Jack Harvey: “There was a whole bunch of debris on the track – I hit some of it and the car spun. It’s a super disappointing day because we worked so hard to get here so to have the day end like this is heartbreaking. Everyone is trying to slow down so quickly and trying to then dodge the debris. I was slowing down and trying to avoid everything so I don’t know what else I could have done at that point. This was still the best experience I’ve ever had. The Indianapolis 500 represents so much in the state of Indiana and to the racing world, but it just didn’t go the right way for us today. Thank you to my family and friends who supported me on this journey and especially to my partners who came onboard to make this race happen for me. Thank you SiriusXM, Autonation, Gap Guard and so many others for making this dream come true for not only me but the entire Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport team.”

Pippa Mann: “Today felt like kind of a messy day out there. We struggled a bit with some things with the car. We struggled a little bit on pit road and we had some issues that were outside of our control. Overall, I am just very proud of the No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing team. They kept digging, and kept after it. With the attrition out there on the race track, we ended up coming home in the top 20 for the second year in a row.”

Jay Howard: “First and foremost, I’m glad Scott (Dixon) is OK. Credit to INDYCAR, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Holmatro Safety Team, Dallara. I’m fine, thanks to them. It goes to show how safe these cars are. I’m not happy. Unfortunately, we ran out of fuel on our first stint when we were doing really well, which was unfortunate. I was a few laps down and see (Ryan) Hunter-Reay coming. I just backed off, let him go by. He moves right over on me and puts me on all the gray and all the marbles and that was it. It’s over.”

Charlie Kimball: “I’m really disappointed honestly – these guys deserved more than that. It’s just hard to take when you have a mechanical failure like that so close to the end. We were coming in that lap for our last stop of the day and I knew the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing guys were going to crush it in pit lane and then we just had to go out and race for the front. The timing stand called a strategy the last quarter of the race that gave us a chance to win. We’d gone through some big struggles earlier in the race and the car wasn’t particularly good, but we got up front and she went like a rabbit. I’m just frustrated. This race means so much to all of us, but at the same time we’re just going to have to dig deep and find a whole other level for Detroit. There are just as many points available next weekend as there were this weekend. We’ll go out there and try to get the No. 83 Tresiba Honda as many as we can.”

Gabby Chaves: “I think we did our job. We took the race one lap at a time. We let the track and the conditions come to us and we dialed in the No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet car every stop. We had a heck of a stint there. I think we were one of the only cars being able to make moves out there and got into a solid top ten for our first go as a team.”

Alexander Rossi: “Two years in a row to have fuel problems is pretty tough to swallow. Obviously, it worked last year. You can’t rely on not fueling the car every year and getting results; it’s difficult. The NAPA Auto Parts Honda was awesome from the get-go. Then we didn’t have the downforce to be that far back.”

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