Takuma Sato, the former Formula One racer who’s been driving in the IndyCar series for nearly a decade, won the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, making him the first Asian driver to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
“Unbelievable feeling!” Sato exclaimed as he jumped out of his car in Victory lane to celebrate with his teammates.
Sato was set back by a pit stop problem early in the race, but stayed patient, quietly moving his way into striking distance. He saved his best for the final battle with bulldog veteran Helio Castroneves in the final five laps — and Castroneves was hungry.
That’s because the feisty Brazilian was looking to become just the fourth driver to win four times — an accomplishment in sports on a line with a Triple Crown or Grand Slam victory. But Sato, 40, passed the 42-year-old Castroneves with three laps to go, and while Castroneves had one look to pass on the outside of Turn 1, he just couldn’t slip past the driver from Tokyo in the red, white, and blue No. 26 car.
Sato has been something of a successful journeyman during his IndyCar career, joining with KV Racing for his first ride in 2010, finishing 21st. He almost won it in 2012 with Rahal Letterman, going for a pass on the last lap that ultimately didn’t work against Dario Franchitti.
He also drove for A.J. Foyt enterprise, and got his first IndyCar win in 2013 at the Long Beach Grand Prix — the first win by a Japanese driver in the series.
Sato took up with the powerful Andretti Autosport racing team this year, and it turned out to be a winning — and history-making — combination.
It was also a win for olds: Sato was the first 40-year-old to win at the Brickyard since Eddie Cheever did it in 1998.