Takuma Sato of Japan celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 28, 2017. Credit: © Jamie Squire, Getty Images
On Sunday, May 28, 40-year-old Takuma Sato became the first Japaneserace car driver to win the Indianapolis 500, the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Sato, a Tokyo-born veteran Formula One driver, took the checkered flag just 0.2011 seconds—faster than the blink of an eye—ahead of three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Hélio Castroneves, who made repeated attempts to pass Sato in the race’s closing laps. Castroneves, from Brazil, finished second and British rookie driver Ed Jones finished third. The Indianapolis 500 is the premier event of the Indy Racing League (IRL) and one of the world’s most famous and prestigious auto races.
Sato first raced at Indianapolis in 2010 and nearly won in 2012, when he crashed in the race’s final lap while trying to pass that year’s winner, Dario Franchitti (also a three-time champion). After winning on Sunday, Sato pulled into Victory Lane and stood overjoyed in the cockpit of his Honda race car. Looped in a wreath of flowers, Sato drank and drenched himself with the traditional bottle of milk. After posing with the giant Borg-Warner Trophy that will soon bear his likeness, Sato climbed down to reverently kiss the strip of bricks at the start/ finish line (a holdover from the track’s original surface). “It’s beautiful,” he beamed. “I dreamed of something like this since I was 12.”
The Indianapolis 500 (often shortened to Indy 500) takes place on the 2½-mile (4.02-kilometer) oval track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. There are 33 starting positions. Drivers with the highest average speeds in four qualifying laps earn the chance to race. The first driver to complete 200 laps around the track—a distance of 500 miles (805 kilometers)—wins the race.
Sato had good qualifying runs and began the race in the fourth position. New Zealander Scott Dixon (the 2008 Indy 500 champion) won the race’s coveted pole (first) position but was wiped out in a spectacular crash on lap 53. Dixon’s car was reduced to a scorched cockpit, but he walked away with only the jitters.
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