(SPEEDWAY, IN) Takuma Soto is quickly finding out that his most prolific stint in racing is occurring during his early-40’s.
The Japanese open-wheeled star notched his first NTT IndyCar Series victory of 2020 by claiming the checkered flags at Sunday’s 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Starting outside Row 1, the 43-year old pilot of the No. 30 Panasonic/People Ready Honda also recorded his second Indy 500 career win. He hoisted his first Borg-Warner trophy in 2017 and Sunday’s feat also marked the second trip to the winner’s circle for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Staying consistent within the Top 10 the entire afternoon, Sato headed to the front of the pack with 15 laps remaining and held off a late charge by runner-up, current series points leader Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing), and RLL teammate Graham Rahal, who finished second and third, respectively.
Dixon, also seeking his second Indy 500 career win Sunday, whittled Sato’s lead to 1.117 seconds with five laps left but the race grounded to a yellow flag conclusion following Spencer Pigot’s crash with four laps remaining.
Sato becomes the twentieth driver overall that has won the 200-lap feature on the 2.5-mile oval.
“I cannot find the words,” Sato said afterwards, reflecting on the dash with five laps left. “The fuel strategy was a bit tight. I saw Scott was coming right through out of Turn 4, and he was screaming coming at me, and I just held him off. Thank you so much.”
Sato looks to keep that momentum alive as the series continues next weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. The twin Bommarito Automotive Group 500 races held Saturday and Sunday afternoon begin the final third of the 12-race season.
Sato, who currently sits in sixth in the points standings, won last year’s event at the 1.25-mile oval.
With the runner-up finish, Dixon widened his lead over Josef Newgarden in the series’ points race (335-251). He led 111 laps Sunday and climbed to third overall in all-time laps led at the Indy 500 (563 laps).
“This is a hard one to swallow,” he said on the late caution that locked him into second place. “I thought they were going to throw a red flag, which would have been interesting for the last four or five laps. Huge congrats to Sato. He drove his pants off today.”
Rahal, son of the team co-owner Bobby Rahal, recorded his third podium finish of the season and equaled his other career top three at Indy (2011).
Pole sitter Marco Andretti (Andretti Herta Autosport) surrendered the lead to Dixon on the opening lap and finished thirteenth on the afternoon.
Pato O’ Ward (Arrow McClaren SP) finished the highest out of the field of five rookies that raced Sunday with a sixth-place result and unofficially holds a one-point lead over Oliver Askew in the Rookie of the Year point standings (127-126).
In the event that was held in front of zero spectators, twenty-one lead changes were recorded on the afternoon and green flag racing was halted by six cautions that resulted in no serious injuries.
Follow the series at indycar.com.
Arch City Media will have coverage of next weekend’s event at World Wide Technology Raceway throughout the week.