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Vindication defines Sato Indy 500 win

by Josh Farmer | Posted on Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

By Josh Farmer

Job done. No attack, no chance. Those are the phrases that 40-year-old Takuma Sato has come to live by.

He can now finally say them with pride and confidence as the winner of the 101st Running of the  Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Takuma Sato won the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Photo by Chris Owens

The motto set by the former Formula One driver has often led to some spectacular moves that very often ended up with someone else, or himself in the wall. A bold move for the lead on the inside of Dario Franchitti on the last lap of the 2012 Indy 500 ended in a familiar spot for Sato – in the wall.

Underneath that rough exterior was a driver that is immensely talented, just in need of some refinement – the almost guy but not the guy.

Discipline showed during Sunday’s 500-mile race. A clean, smart race put him in a position to win as the race came down to an eleven lap shootout while contenders and teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and Fernando Alonso dropped out with engine failure. Sato performed a marvelous pass on the outside of three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves.

Takuma Sato and Michael Andretti. Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher

While the win rightfully vindicated the eight-year IndyCar veteran, he admitted that he felt honored to win at IMS notwithstanding the fact he wanted to correct his mistake from 2012.

“It’s such a privilege to win here,” he said. “So whether it was the first attempt or eighth attempt or you had drama in the past, it doesn’t really matter.

“But, yes, I do feel after 2012 I really needed to correct something I left over. Today I was so happy that I made it and won in a good move. I have to thank the Michael for that.”

What is even more impressive is who he held off for the win – Helio Castroneves. Castroneves was undoubtedly hungry for a win, as he was trying to snap a 49-race winless drought and join the 4-timers club at Indy.

Takuma Sato leads Helio Castroneves across the finish line at the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. Photo by Joe Skibinski

Sato kept the Brazilian at bay in probably the toughest five laps of any racer’s life. Castroneves had one legitimate attempt on lap 199, but Sato had the preferred line and cleared him.

While he couldn’t rest easy, Sato felt comfortable knowing that Castroneves would race him smart.

“I know Helio knows how to win here, too,” he said. “But, you know, I was happy that it was only constant race on him, not five packs. We already have a good cushion between others.

“Helio is the guy, he can go for really hard, with respect. I can trust him, as well. On track or off, we got on really well. Having battled with him is always good.”

Takuma Sato celebrates with the Borg Warner Trophey at Monday’s photo shoot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Photo by Chris Owens

Team owner Michael Andretti also had a reason to celebrate. Andretti never won the race as a driver, but this win is his team’s fifth overall. The full-circle journey for both teams was realized when the checkered flag flew.

“He’s brought a lot to our team,” he said. “He’s got a lot of experience, very technical. On top of it, he’s a great guy. He’s a great part of the team. He’s done everything I thought he was going to do.

“I knew he was going to be fast here. He definitely didn’t let us down. He didn’t let us down in qualifying, and he definitely didn’t let us down in the race. I’m very proud of that. So happy to have him on our team.”

Takuma Sato – 2017 Indianapolis champion. Photo by Brett Kelley

The win also propels Sato into the stratosphere. The fans gave a massive ovation as he pulled his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda into victory lane. He has always represented Japan with pride and integrity and was thrilled to be the first to deliver a win for his country.

“This will be mega big,” he said. “I cannot imagine how it’s going to be

“But nowadays, a lot of Japanese, the fans following IndyCar Series, particularly for the Indy 500. I know they are flying over from Japan today. Many, many people came. So I’m very really proud of what we achieved, and the team gave a super good opportunity. We showed finally a great result today, so I’m very, very pleased about it.”

Pleased he should be as the 2017 Indy 500 will now go down as the day that a deserving driver finally answered the bell when it mattered most – on the sport’s biggest worldwide stage.

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