In a showdown that featured airborne cars, blown engines and a field with vast amounts of Formula One experience, Takuma Sato claimed the win for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda. A pass in the closing laps of the race allowed the Japanese driver to win the crown jewel of the Verizon IndyCar Series, a feat that would erase any memories of the last-lap spin from five years ago. He passed Helio Castroneves with five laps remaining to finish 0.2 seconds ahead of the charging Brazilian driver for his second career Indy car win.
The first-ever driver of Japanese descent to kiss the bricks, Sato was the eighth of a record 15 different leaders, resulting in 35 lead changes. Three of those drivers came from the six-chamber Andretti Autosport revolver, who led 39-percent of the 200 total laps with strategy that was key to the result. Along with his two teammates that finished the race, Sato completed 500 miles on seven stops, two less than the two non-Andretti drivers that finished on the podium.
Coming in a close second, Castroneves was on the hunt for his fourth Indy 500 win. Though the Chevrolets seemed to lack the power and straight-line speed of the Hondas, Castroneves madehis presence known at the front of the field, leading a total of nine laps from two separate stints on the point. Despite taking three separate shots at the pass in the final five laps, Castroneves was not able to get around Sato’s No. 26 machine.
Just falling short of matching Alexander Rossi’s surprise 2016 win, rookie Ed Jones completed the podium in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. The Emirati driver finished a half second from the top spot, but did not have the right set up to capitalize on his late-race position. Jones referenced how trimmed-out Castroneves and Sato were at the end of the race and was not able to remain in the slipstream.
With the Honda-powered machines of Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan rounding out the top five, only two Chevrolets finished in the top eight. Honda-powered Dallaras seemed to have the speed and handling advantage throughout the race, but observations didn’t end on that positive. A handful of Honda engines were lost in the weeks leading up to the Indianapolis 500, with a total of three failures in the race. The most spectactular of which was Formula One champion, Fernando Alonso.
The spaniard excited the crowd with daring moves at the front of the field. He led four times for a total of 27 laps before smoke started billowing out of his twin turbo V-6 on the front stretch just 20 laps from the checkers. The crowd resounded in a loud roar after being acknowledged by the F1 legend.
Chilton led the most laps of the day and looked slated to take the win in his second Indy car race at the famed oval. The Briton focused on keeping the bottom line protected and successfully defended numerous attacks from Castroneves. With six laps remaining, however, the three-time Indy 500 champ powered around the outside of Chilton’s Honda.
A total of 11 yellow flag periods for 50 laps interrupted green flag running, with two massive accidents pulling gasps from spectators.
On Lap 53, pole-sitter Scott Dixon made hard contact Jay Howard’s No. 77 machine, which had already made contact with the wall in Turn 2. An eruption of debris resulted in Dixon’s car catapulting into the air before coming down on in the inside retaining wall. Both drivers walked from their machines and escaped serious harm, but red flag conditions remained for nearly 20 minutes as repairs were made to the catch-fencing.
The second major incident occurred on Lap 184 when contact between Oriol Servia and James Davison resulted in the two cars crashing hard into the outside wall. Last year’s pole winner James Hinchcliffe was collected in the incident along with Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Davison, who was filling in for the injured Sebastien Bourdais, had fallen back after two laps at the front.
All drivers were checked and released by the in-field care center barring Buddy Lazier, who was transported to a local hospital. The former Indianapolis winner climbed out of his car under his own power after a single-car incident, but was complaining of chest pain afterwards.
The double-points-paying finished shuffled the championship standings as qualifying points were also paid out after the result. Castroneves leads Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Sato by 11 points with a total of 245. Sato jumps all the way up from 10th in the points to the three-way tie for second after today’s result. Alexander Rossi completes the top five in the championship.
Just a week remains before the paddock heads up to Belle Isle on the Detroit River for the Chevrolet dual in Detroit, the only double-header weekend of the year.