SPEEDWAY, Ind. — A gutsy outside pass on lap 195 carried Japan’s Takuma Sato to his first Indianapolis 500 victory on Sunday, as he held off three-time winner Helio Castroneves by two-tenths of a second.
An 11-lap run to the finish, sparked after a huge accident that wiped out multiple contenders in the closing laps, saw Max Chilton lead but Castroneves surge from fourth to first with less than seven laps to go.
Sato quickly followed into second, giving chase to Castroneves for the next lap before pouncing coming onto the frontstretch. He powered to the outside to lead at the start-finish line on lap 195, completing the pass entering Turn 1 and never looking back from there.
Sunday’s race also marked redemption for Sato, who had a shot at winning the 2012 Indianapolis 500 on the last lap before a dive-bomb pass on Dario Franchitti went wrong and saw Sato crash out after coming so close to tasting victory.
It was Sato’s second career Verizon IndyCar Series win and first since 2013, when he dominated the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach by leading 50 of the 80 laps that day.
“What an unbelievable feeling! It was obviously a tough, tough race,” Sato said. “Helio really drove fair and I (knew I) could trust him. I could really come from the outside. A fantastic race. Hopefully, (everyone) enjoyed it.”
“It’s beautiful. I grabbed onto something I left over in 2012 and what I couldn’t hang onto (then), I left in this sport (today).”
Castroneves looked to Sato’s outside entering Turn 1 with two laps to go, but Sato held firm on the bottom and ultimately pulled away.
“With under three laps to go … when Helio came side-by-side, that was the moment you’ve got to go for it on the flat. We did it and we pulled away and it was fantastic.”
For team owner Michael Andretti, Sunday marked his fifth-career Indy 500 win and third in the past four years, following on from triumphs by Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Alexander Rossi (2016).
“I’m in shock because we had such good cars and they were all pulling to the side … and Takuma came through,” Andretti exclaimed. “He’s awesome. I’m so happy for him, so happy for Ruoff Mortgages … who came on for this race. Oh my God, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe we won it again!”
“We work really, really, really hard on this race; we really focus on it a lot and having all those cars out there, gaining all that information helps a lot,” Andretti added. “I’m proud of everyone on this team and they’re the ones that got this one as well as Takuma. He drove unbelievable.”
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