Takuma Sato Wins the 2017 Indy 500 in a Long, Bloody Battle of a Race
The 40-year-old becomes the first Asian winner of the 101-year-old event.
At the end of a long, bloody battle that sliced many of the favorites from the race and saw a whopping 35 lead changes, veteran IndyCar driver Takuma Sato grabbed the honor of dousing himself in milk at the 2017 Indianapolis 500, battling off rival Helio Castroneves in the final minutes of the race to grab a victory few saw coming at the start of the day.
"It’s beautiful," Sato said after the race, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I dreamed of something like this since I was 12.”
The Indy 500 win is Sato's second victory overall in his eight-year IndyCar career. Sato beat Castroneves by 0.2011 seconds, setting a final time of 3:13:03.3584.
While he started the race in fourth, Sato's victory only came at the end of a race plagued with broken cars, caused by both accidents and mechanical failures alike. 14 members of the 33-car grid were waylaid by the time the checkered flag fell, two-time Formula One world champion and current F1 competitor Fernando Alonso prominently among them. Alonso seemed to stand a chance of claiming victory for much of the race, jockeying for a place in the front of the pack throughout and even leading for several portions of the competition—before being waylaid by a failing Honda engine, something the Spaniard has become far too familiar with from his day job in Formula One.
However, in spite of the failure to finish, Alonso was stoic in his post-race press conference, expressing positivity about skipping F1's Monaco Grand Prix to come to Indianapolis in the first place.
"To drive around Monaco for a seventh place, an eighth place...to be here, it's impossible to compare. I didn't miss Monaco," Alonso said. "If I come back here at least I know how it is. It won't be the first time I do restarts, pit stops...it will be easier."
Remarkably, Alonso's woes were among the least dramatic of a crash-filled Indianapolis 500. Four other cars—including that of 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay—failed to finish due to mechanical issues, while nine more were knocked out of contention in a series of crashes that wiped out some of the other big names in the race, including pole-sitter Scott Dixon and 2014 IndyCar Series champ Will Power.
Before today, the 40-year-old Sato had never placed higher than 13th at the Indianapolis 500, according to the Indianapolis Star.
This year marked Sato's first running in the IndyCar Series with his current team, Andretti Autosport. And as you can tell from the video Andretti posted on Twitter...the team was rather happy for him.