Takuma Sato won the 101st Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, holding off three-time winner Helio Castroneves and denying him a shot at history.
Sato follows Alexander Rossi, the rookie who won last year for Andretti Autosport, to earn the traditional milk bath in victory circle.
Sato, from Tokyo, and Castroneves had a battle for the last 10 laps of the race, exchanging the lead in a white-knuckle finish. Sato had won one other time in his 124 starts in the series.
“I’m shocked,” team owner Michael Andretti said.
Sato is the first Japanese driver to win the race. His only other win came at Long Beach, 73 races ago. This is his first win on an oval and gives Andretti Autosport three of the past four Indy 500s, following Rossi in 2016 and Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014.
Sato screamed into the team radio after he crossed the yard of bricks and punched the air with his fist over and over.
Castroneves also won here in 2001, 2002 and 2009. He was trying to join elite company as the only drivers to win here four times. A.J. Foyt, Al Unser Sr. and Rick Mears, who was inducted into the Team Penske Hall of Fame on Thursday, are the only drivers to do so.
Castroneves has finished runner-up three times.
“I have to say one thing, I want to thank Shell and Team Penske for giving me a competitive car. What a race, man. This place is incredible. It’s a mixed feeling, yes, I’m upset. Going to the back, getting a penalty. Ugh,” Castroneves said after climbing from his car.
It looked for a moment early in the race during the first crash — between Jay Howard and Scott Dixon — when Castroneves actually drove under Dixon’s flipping car that he may not have the opportunity to vie for the victory.
“Well, when I saw the 77 went into the wall, I knew it would bounce back. When I saw Dixon flipping, I didn’t think it would be so fast.”
Ed Jones, Max Chilton, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya, Rossi, Marco Andretti, Gabby Chaves and Carlos Munoz rounded out the top 10.
Star-crossed as drivers, Andretti family finds Indy 500 success as owners again
Fernando Alonso, the two-time Formula One champion who was attempting his first Indianapolis 500, finished 24th after starting fifth and leading the race several times, the first on lap 37.
His Honda engine expired as he came down the frontstretch after 179 laps. There has been talk all month about the unreliability of the Honda program, which has seen several failures here.
“I felt the noise and then I saw the smoke. It’s a shame. Who knows what it could be?” Alonso said. “I mean the whole day has been a very good experience, from the presentation and the racing was fun – it was nice.
“It was a very nice surprise to come here with the best in oval racing and be able to be competitive.
“Yeah, if I come back, it will be easier (the) second time. … This has been one of the best experiences in my career.”
Fernando Alonso leads the field around Indianapolis
Fernando Alonso leads the field around Indianapolis Motor Speedway after a caution during the 101st running of the Indy 500. (Photo: Brian Spurlock, USA TODAY Sports)
There was tremendous buzz around the Spanish star, who is attempting to win the Triple Crown of racing. He already has one leg, the Monaco Grand Prix, which he chose to skip this weekend to try the Indy 500. He was met with a warm reception and often said he was overwhelmed by the fan support.
He was among a six-car Andretti Autosport contingent that dominated most of the race. Alonso, Sato, Hunter-Reay and Rossi all led multiple laps. But on lap 137, Hunter-Reay’s Honda engine expired while he was leading the race. Marco Andretti, always a fan favorite, continued to have bad luck in the series’ crown jewel, but still managed a top-10 finish. Howard, the last Andretti driver, was out early his vicious crash with Dixon in Turn 2.
Howard got into the gray marbles and outside the racing line in Turn 2, hit the wall and came down the track and was hit Dixon, who started on the pole.
Dixon’s car went airborne and over Castroneves, hit the top of the wall, flipped and came down wheels up. His car was destroyed. Dixon was checked and released from the infield care center immediately after the crash, but returned later to get a boot on his left foot and ankle.
A photographer was taken to the infield care center after ducking below the retaining wall when Dixon’s car hit.
A five-car accident took out Team Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden, plus James Hinchcliffe, Oriol Servia and Jay Davison, who was substituting for the injured Sebastien Bourdais.