INDIANAPOLIS – Takuma Sato’s racing motto is “No attack. No chance.” The 2017 Indianapolis 500 champion proved that notion once again with a fiery drive through the field to take home a third-place finish Sunday in the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver began the race in the middle of Row 5 in a quest for a second Indianapolis 500 victory. After rising to the lead on Lap 36 by stretching his fuel longer than most every other driver, the race took a quick turn for the Tokyo native.
“My race, (at) one stage it looked really tough,” Sato said. “We got some little issues after the first pit stop, so we had to come back (and pit again on Lap 40), and then I think it got a lap down in 31st place.”
“I think we had to (put our) head down the job and recalculate. Our team did a great job to stretch the field and then get back to the pack. I think it took more than 100 laps.”
He was right. Sato didn’t unlap himself for good until Lap 141 when he was among the drivers receiving the wave-around past the pace car under a caution. Still mired in 19th place at that points, Sato guided the No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda back to the front – leading again on Lap 176 before making his final pit stop on the next lap.
The timing of that stop couldn’t have been better since a yellow flag waved again on Lap 178 for a six-car incident. Sato took the Lap 187 restart in fifth place, but quickly passed Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden to grab the podium result.
“I think it was brilliant, and after the restart, it was very exciting. Got up to P6, P5, P4 and finally got P3, and then I got everything I had,” he added.
Sato had frontrunners Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi in sight over the final 10 laps but wasn’t sure he had enough to challenge for the win.
Sato was quick to congratulate his crew for the effort to get him back from 31st place to within grasp of another Indianapolis 500 win.
“It's a huge credit to the team, engineering side, and the boys worked so hard,” he said. “But I think the entire team lifted a huge potential again, and really looking forward to competing at the highest level in the second third of the season.”
The NTT IndyCar Series scene shifts now to the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear for the lone doubleheader race weekend on the schedule. Sato has enjoyed some success on the Belle Isle Park street circuit, finishing second in one of the 2015 races and winning the NTT P1 Award pole position for one of the 2017 races.
This year’s races air live at 3 p.m. ET Saturday and Sunday on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.