INDIANAPOLIS — Journeyman open-wheel driver Takuma Sato scored Andretti Autosport’s second consecutive Indianapolis 500 upset Sunday when he outdrove three-time champion Helio Castroneves for a narrow victory in the 101st edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Sato, a former Formula 1 driver, took the lead from Castroneves with a pass that began out of Turn 4 and down the front straight of the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on lap 195 of 200. The nose of Sato’s car edged Castroneves’ at the Speedway’s famed Yard of Bricks start/finish line one lap after the popular Brazilian had wowed the crowd by passing Max Chilton for P1 in Turn 3.
Sato — who famously crashed out of the 2012 Indy 500 during a final-lap, wheel-to-wheel battle with eventual winner Dario Franchitti — never flinched en route to stretching his lead to a margin of victory of 0.2011 of a second. Sato, a 40-year-old native of Tokyo, is the only Japanese driver to win an IndyCar Series race.
Sato acknowledged his 17th-place finish five years ago left a sour taste that only Sunday’s traditional winner’s swig of milk could erase.
“Yes, I do feel after 2012 I really need to correct something I left over,” said Sato, who started fourth in the 33-car field in his No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda. “Today I was so happy that I made it and won in a good move.
“Yeah, it’s such a privilege to win here. So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had a drama in the past, it doesn’t really matter. Winning today, it’s just superb.”
Making his 123rd Verizon IndyCar Series start with his fourth team, Sato scored his second career victory and first on an oval. Sato’s only previous series win came on the Streets of Long Beach while driving for A.J. Foyt Racing in 2013. That was 74 races ago.
Sato joined Michael Andretti’s organization last fall after a four-year tenure with Foyt’s team. Sato largely had been overshadowed at IMS this month by teammates Alexander Rossi, who won the Indy 500 last year as a rookie; Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 champion who led a race-best seven times for 28 laps Sunday, and Fernando Alonso, a two-time F1 world driving champion whose bid for victory ended with a blown engine on Lap 180 after he had paced 27 laps.
Andretti Autosport scored its fifth Indy 500 win, including three of the last four and two in a row. It was the team’s 56th win in Indy car competition and first since Rossi’s shocker here last year.
Castroneves was bidding to join Brickyard legends Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as a four-time winner of the Indy 500.
“Well, congrats to Takuma Sato, great job winning the Indianapolis 500,” said Castroneves, driver of the No. 3 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet. “He came close once with Dario, now he finally made it. I try everything I could with three laps to go, two laps to go. I went outside. Unfortunately, my tires were overshot a little bit. I would have ended up in the wall. I did everything I could, trust me, everything I could. Yes, finishing second again (expletive). So close to get the fourth. I really am trying. I will not give up this dream. I know it’s going to happen.”
Rookie Ed Jones of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, finished third in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing. Englishman Max Chilton, who led four times for a race-high 50 laps, placed fourth in the No. 8 Gallagher Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.
Pole-sitter Scott Dixon’s day ended on Lap 52 when his No. 9 Camping World Honda fielded by Ganassi Racing was clipped by Jay Howard’s No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda and launched into the fence and the top of the SAFER Barrier in Turn 1. At one point, Dixon’s car slammed to the pavement driver’s side down as it shed parts, before coming to rest right-side-up. Both drivers exited what was left of their cars, checked in at the track’s infield care center and released.
TOP 10 FINISHERS
(Starting position in parentheses)
1. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda
2. (19) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet
3. (11) Ed Jones, Honda, 200
4. (15) Max Chilton, Honda
5. (7) Tony Kanaan, Honda
6. (18) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet
7. (3) Alexander Rossi, Honda
8. (8) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200
9. (25) Gabby Chaves, Chevrolet
10. (24) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet