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Sato wins second Indy 500 under caution

IndyCar

24 Aug 2020

Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar Media

Takuma Sato won his second Indianapolis 500 in four years, beating a dominant Scott Dixon as the race ended under caution.

Sato passed Dixon on lap 173 of 200 as the field cycled through green flag stops and began to pull away from the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, but as the race entered its final few laps, the five time champion closed in.

What promised to be a nail biting finish was taken away with five laps to go as Spencer Pigot crashed violently on the exit of turn four. The Citrone/Buhl RLL runner was able to climb from his car unaided, but was later transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

With the race ending under yellow flag conditions, Sato added to his 2017 victory in the race while Dixon, who led 111 out of 200 laps, finished second for the third time.

Dixon started the race on the front row of the grid, between Sato and polesitter Marco Andretti, and took the lead immediately as the green flag dropped.

Besides during pit cycles, Dixon was in a class of his own at front until just after the mid-way point in the race, ceeding the lead to Alexander Rossi on lap 103 in a bid to save fuel. The pair continued to trade spots back and forth over the following handful of laps, with the leading driver suffering poorer fuel economy.

At that point Rossi looked like Dixon’s most realistic challenger for the win, but a stop during a caution period – brought about on lap 122 for a crash for Alex Palou – proved to be Rossi’s undoing.

Credit: James Black/IndyCar Media

The 2016 winner was sent to the back of the field after being released into the path of Sato, and although he was quickly able to dispose of six cars when the race restarted on lap 132, 12 laps later, while navigating more traffic, Rossi spun in turbulent air and collide with the turn two wall.

The race once again restarted on Lap 155, and again Dixon was the undisputed leader. However Sato, who had been a fixture in the top-five all day up to that point, began to close in.

Sato took the lead three laps later but during their final cycle of green flag stops, Dixon once again moved to the fore, despite a slow final spot.

Mirroring his exchange with Rossi earlier on, Dixon ceded the lead to Sato on lap 173, believing that Sato would be unable to match him on fuel mileage for the remainder of the race.

The gamble didn’t pay off, with Sato gapping Dixon as the laps wound down. Navigating lapped traffic slowed Sato down somewhat during the last few laps, but Pigot’s crash ended any hope of Dixon challenging  in the closing laps.

The pair were followed home by Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan team mate Graham Rahal, who after starting eighth, came into victory contention in the second half of the race.

For the second year in a row Santino Ferrucci had a strong showing at Indianapolis, climbing from 19th to finish fourth, ahead of Josef Newgarden who was the highest, finishing Chevrolet runner after a steady run through the field.

Carb day pacesetter Pato O’Ward, competing in his first Indy 500 after failing to qualify last year, was the top rookie in sixth, finishing ahead of James Hinchcliffe and Colton Herta. Jack Harvey and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was involved in the lead battle early on, completed the top-10.

Credit: John Cote/IndyCar Media

Hunter-Reay was one of the fastest runners in the field early on, but during a pit stop during the first caution period – brought about by a bizarre brake failure incident for James Davison – he lost four spots, and never recovered from the fall.

Elsewhere in the field, Andretti, who was the fastest driver not just in qualifying but for much of the pre-race running, had a disappointing run to 13th. After losing the lead in the opening seconds of the race, he continued to fall down the order and extended the wait for the first Andretti family win in the Indy 500 since 1969 for another year.

Rookie driver Rinus VeeKay, who was the highest-qualifying Chevrolet entrant and a fixture in the top-10 early on, finished down in 20th. His race came apart on lap 63 where not only did he stall, but a penalty for hitting a crew member during the stop sent him to the back of the field.

He finished one spot ahead of Fernando Alonso, who was competing in his second Indy 500 after failing to qualify last year.

The two-time Formula 1 world champion had a relatively anonymous run in the back half of the field, contending with clutch and electrical issues. It was a stark contrast to his 2017 debut where he led 27 laps – a race coincidentally also won by Sato.

Last year’s winner Simon Pagenaud finished one spot behind Alonso in 22nd, matching his car number to take his worst finish in nine Indy 500 attempts. He was however able to lead 14 laps, taking advantage of an early caution to run an alternate pit strategy.

Alonso’s McLaren team mate Oliver Askew was one of eight drivers to fail to make the finish.

The reigning Indy Lights champion led four laps after running an alternate strategy to the leaders early on, but while braking to avoid a spinning Conor Daly on a lap 88 restart – coming after fellow rookie Dalton Kellett had crashed out – he hit the wall hard on the exit of turn four. He also collected Daly in the incident, who retired as well.