Takuma Sato and Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of Japan

Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato received a lifetime honor today when presented with the Prime Minister’s Award by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Sato is just the 33rd recipient of the award, given to people and organizations that have made significant achievements or contributions to Japan and its society.

Takuma Sato and Shinzō Abe, Prime Minister of JapanThe award is given at the prime minister’s discretion and Sato was honored to receive it. The Andretti Autosport driver became the first Japanese winner of the Indianapolis when he won the 101st running of the event in May.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be honored like this because this is apparently the first person in motor racing in Japan to be honored like that,” Sato said.

“I feel really honored to be participating at INDYCAR. Really, the Indy 500 and becoming champion, made happen a lot of great things and I feel so great.”

Past Prime Minister’s Award recipients have included Yuta Iyama, who won all seven titles of Japanese professional shogi (Japanese chess) in 2016; Hiroyuki Kaio, who collected 100 victories in sumo wrestling (2010); and Koichi Wakata, the first Japanese astronaut who stayed in the International Space Station (2009).

Watch Sato’s reaction to receiving the award here:

Fredbird flies in for Gateway Motorsports Park test

Fredbird, the official mascot of the St. Louis Cardinals, attended the Verizon IndyCar Series test Thursday at Gateway Motorsports Park to shoot promotional videos for the team's INDYCAR Night on Aug. 22 at Busch Stadium. The racing theme night is part of a weeklong schedule of activities leading up to the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline race weekend on Aug. 25-26.

Ed Carpenter and FredbirdFredbird joined the team of Ed Carpenter Racing on pit lane briefly during the test session. Team owner/driver Carpenter will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Cardinals game with the San Diego Padres on INDYCAR Night and other drivers will attend the game as well.

Fans who purchase the special INDYCAR Night theme ticket will receive a racing-inspired Cardinals t-shirt and a general admission ticket to the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Gateway Motorsports Park on Aug. 26. To purchase a ticket to the baseball game, visit cardinals.com/theme.

Ed Carpenter Racing hosted another special guest at the test, former Butler University basketball player Roosevelt Jones.

Jones, who played for the Cleveland Cavaliers' NBA D-League affiliate last season, is working out in his hometown of O'Fallon, Illinois, as he prepares for his next basketball opportunity. He spent nearly the entire day of testing learning about Indy car racing from team members.

"He's been here since 11 a.m.," said Carpenter, Butler graduate like Jones. "He doesn't say much, but he is having a good time."

Fifth Third Bank to sponsor Rahal at Gateway

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced today that Fifth Third Bank will be the primary sponsor for the No. 15 Honda driven by Graham Rahal in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. It will be the bank’s second event as a primary sponsor for the team, after holding the role for Oriol Servia’s No. 16 Honda at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. Fifth Third Bank is in its second year as an associate sponsor for the team and extended its partnership for three years in May 2017.

“We are excited to be a part of the return of Indy car racing at Gateway Motorsports Park,” said Steven Alonso, group regional president of Fifth Third Bank. “We are proud to be partnering with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as a primary sponsor; and are looking forward to seeing Graham Rahal behind the wheel of the No. 15 Fifth Third Bank car at the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.”

Pro Mazda race results from Mid-Ohio confirmed

The results from Sunday’s third and final race of the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will stand following a post-race inspection of three cars.

The cars of race winner Anthony Martin, second-place Victor Franzoni and fourth-place TJ Fischer were impounded following the race for a routine random inspection. According to Andersen Promotions, which operates the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires under INDYCAR sanction, “Series officials have determined that no illegal components, unauthorized parts or other items that would fall outside of the series technical regulations were in use. This process not only included a complete mechanical inspection and review of the vehicles, but also inspection and analysis of aero, engine performance, timing and scoring data, oils and fuel.”

The in-depth inspection of the three cars took place at Indianapolis Motor Speedway under the guidance of Daryl Fox, the Pro Mazda technical director.

“This process may occur at any time within any Mazda Road to Indy category and it should be viewed as an extension of the rigorous inspection process already in place,” Fox said. “As it is a more intrusive process which requires more time, it needs to be completed away from the racetrack in a private setting.”