In his charge to the lead of the Indianapolis 500, Takuma Sato passes Max Chilton. [Andy Clary Photo]
by Mary Champion
Takuma Sato will be saying domo origato (thank you) to his crew, the rest of the field, the fans and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the 40-year-old Japanese driver came across the yard of bricks 0.2011 of a second in front of three-time Indy 500 winner, Helio Castroneves, to claim victory in the 101st Indianapolis 500.
The win was redemption for Sato’s crash in the 2012 race when he was running second on the last lap and crashed in the short chute between T1 and T2, trying to pass Dario Franchitti for the win.
It was Sato’s second series win and his first on an oval, as his only other Verizon IndyCar Series win came at Long Beach in 2013, and it was the first “500” win for a Japanese driver.
The predcted storms did not materialize and the field took the green at 12: 26 p.m. It was a clean start with pole winner Scott Dixon leading the field into Turn 1.
Dixon held the lead on Lap 5, followed by Tony Kanaan, outside front row starter Alexander Rossi, and Ed Carpenter.
On Lap 6, Kanaan took the lead from Dixon but the rest of the order remained the same. At Lap 10, the top five were Kanaan, Dixon. Rossi, Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, Marco Andretti, Fernando Alonso, Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power.
He field settled down and spread out keeping things clean and green. The most notable movement in the field was that of James Davison, who had advanced from 33rd to 25th.
By Lap 20, Kanaan held a 0.344 of a second lead over Dixon and the top 10 were spread over 4.6 seconds.
The top positions remained stable with the exception of Rossi passing Dixon for second on Lap 25.
Kanaan started the parade of pit stops when he pitted from the lead on Lap 28, giving the race lead to Carpenter
Due to pit stops, the running order at Lap 30 was Hildebrand, Carpenter and Alonso, who successfully made his first IndyCar pit stop.
During the pit stop sequence, Jay Howard slowed on the backstretch,, apparently out of fuel. He was able to make it to the pits but running out of fuel created other issues in the car. By the time he went back on track, Howard was several laps down.
Juan Pablo Montoya also had problems in the pit and had a 17.8 second pit stop, an unusual occurrence for a Penske team.
After the field cycled through pit stops, the running order on Lap 33 was Carpenter, Rossi, Alonso, Kanaan and Sato.
The first penalty of the day was a drive-through assessed to Zach Veach for entering the wrong pit box on his first pit stop.
On Lap 35, Rossi took the lead for the first time and, over the next few laps periodically traded it with Alonzo.
The race was clean and green for the first 53 laps. On Lap 53, the first yellow of the race occurred due to serious accident involving Howard and Dixon.
Howard went high on the track as Hunter-Reay lapped him. He lost control and hit the wall. After Howard hit the wall, his car slid down the track and Dixon hit the front of Howard’s car. After the hard hit, Dixon’s car went high into the air and landed on the inside fence and wall. The car came down off the top of the wall and flipped upside down onto the track then came to a stop with the cockpit side up.
Following the violent accident, Dixon climbed out of his car and Howard climbed out of his with no serious injuries. Both drivers were said to be okay and cleared to drive, however, Dixon left the care center limping. He later went back to the Care Center complaining of ankle pain and was fitted with a walking boot.
Several other cars suffered minor damaged when they hit some of the massive debris field caused by the accident.
The red flag came out on Lap 55 as it was a discovered that Dixon’s car left a large hole in the catch fence that had to be repaired before the race could continue.
Following 19 minutes and 40 seconds under the red flag, the cars were restarted on Lap 56 with the running order being Alonso leading, followed by Rossi, Sato, Carpenter and Hunter-Reay.
The pits were opened on Lap 57 with most cars taking four tires and fuel. Castroneves had to change the nosecone on his car as, in an effort to avoid the previous incident, he drove into the grass as Dixon’s car literally went over his head.
Ed Jones was forced to start at the rear of the field as a penalty for work being done on his car in a closed pit.
The race went green on Lap 60 with Alonso in the lead. The lead was short-lived as Rossi took the lead on the next lap.
On Lap 65, Sato took over the top spot from Rossi. On the following lap, Conor Daly touched wheels with Charlie Kimball, went high on the track in Turn 3 and hit the SAFER Barrier. Behind Daly, Harvey struck debris from Daly’s car and hit the inside wall. Both drivers were uninjured.
The officials were reviewing the restart under the previous yellow and determined that Castroneves had jumped the restart and consequently received a drive through penalty.
Sato had been leading under the yellow and after leading the field to the green on Lap 75, he was promptly passed by Rossi. Hunter-Reay took the lead from Rossi on Lap 79.
Two laps later, the yellow banner flew again as there was debris on the frontstretch.
The leaders took advantage of the yellow to pit. Will Power did not pit and assumed the race lead.
The green came out on Lap 84 with Power leading, but Max Chilton passed Power in Turn 1 to assume the top spot.
James Davison was assessed a penalty of yielding a position in the race for blocking another car.
Various drivers swapped the lead up to Lap 100, with Castroneves leading Hunter-Reay by 0.852 of a second at the halfway point of the race.
Castroneves pitted on Lap 104, relinquishing the lead to Hunter-Reay.
With another round of pit stops, there were a number of lead changes. When the cycle of pit stops were completed, Hunter-Reay held a 3.8 second lead over Alonso on Lap 120.
Yet another yellow flag appeared on Lap 122 when Buddy Lazier spun in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 and hit the SAFER barrier in Turn 2, with the car coming to rest on the backstretch. Lazier was assisted from his car and was later transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital for evaluation of chest discomfort.
During the yellow another incident occurred when Sage Karman came to a stop in Turn 1 with the car reportedly stuck in gear.
It has been said that yellows breed yellows and this was the case when the green came out with Hunter-Reay leading on Lap 129. Alonso took the lead from him on Lap 130 when debris in Turn 4 again brought out the yellow with Hunter-Reay secnd, Rossi third, Castroneves fourth and Kanaan rounding out the top five.
Alonso led when the green came out on Lap 134. Alonso and Hunter-Reay traded the lead for the next two laps with Alonso leading when the yellow once again appeared when Hunter-Reay’s engine blew on Lap 137.
With the pits open, the lead cars pitted and Chilton was at the head of the field when the green flag again appeared on Lap 142. Charlie Kimball took the lead from Chilton in Turn 1 of Lap 143 and the yellow came out yet again on the same lap for debris in Turn 1 which was laid down when Carpenter made contact with Mikhail Aleshin.
As Carpenter headed to the pits to replace the nosecone on his car, the top five were Kimball, Chilton, Hildebrand, James Davison, who started 33rd, subbing for the injured Sebastien Bourdais, was fourth and Graham Rahal was running fifth.
Carpenter was forced to start at the rear of the field on Lap 147 as a penalty for working on the car in a closed pit.
Chilton took the lead from Kimball on Lap 148 and led until Lap 166 while Kimball and Davison swapped second place.
Davison took the lead when Chilton pitted and was leading when yet another yellow flag came out Lap 167 when Kimball’s engine expired.
The leaders all took advantage of the yellow to pit for the final time with Hildebrand leading on Lap 168 as they left the pits. At the same time, Zach Veach slowed on the course.
Chilton took the lead when Hildebrand pitted and was leading when the track went green on Lap 171, holding the lead through the yellow that came out when Alonso’s engine expired, and was still leading on Lap 184 when a major accident occurred in Turn 1.
The incident started when Davison and Oriol Servia made contact in Turn 1 and collected James Hinchcliffe and Power. Josef Newgarden spun to avoid the incident but hit the inside SAFER Barrier. Fortunately, none of the drivers were injured.
The race was winding down and went back to green for the final time on Lap 189 with Chilton in the lead.
Hildebrand was put out of contention when he was assessed a drive-through penalty for jumping the restart.
The top five on Lap 190 were Chilton, Sato, Castroneves, Ed Jones and Tony Kanaan and it was apparent the race would be a battle to the finish.
Chilton led Sato by 0.13 of a second on Lap 190. Castroneves passed Chilton for the lead in Turn 3 on Lap 194. Sato made a move for the lead coming out of Turn 4 and paased Castroneves at the line, leading the lap by 0.0328 of a second.
Castroneves made several attempts to pull up to and pass Sato, but was unsuccessful, allowing Sato to capture the 101st Indianapolis 500 by 0.2011 of a second.
Rookie driver Ed Jones placed third while Chilton was fourth and Kanaan place fifth.