Honda opened second century of competition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today the same way it closed out the previous 100 years of racing at the famous Brickyard: with a thrilling victory.
Veteran Takuma Sato led the way, besting three-time Indy winner Helio Castroneves in a fierce duel over the final 11 laps to take the checkers as the first Japanese driver to win in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.
As the last of several late-race cautions bunched the field after a multi-car crash on Lap 179, Sato was running second to fellow Honda driver Max Chilton, with Castroneves third and outstanding rookie Ed Jones, fourth. When the green flag waved for the final time to start Lap 189, Sato quickly worked his way to the front in his Andretti Autosport Honda. The battle for the victory became a two-driver duel with six laps to go, with first Castoneves taking the lead, then Sato making an outside pass for the lead going into Turn 1 with just five laps remaining, holding on for the win by just two-tenths of a second at the checkers.
Finishing in third, 2016 Indy Lights champion Jones made the most of his Indianapolis 500 debut. Despite twice sustaining damage to his Dale Coyne Racing Honda due to debris from two of the four crashes in today’s race, Jones worked his way into the lead group in the final 20 laps, and closed on Castroneves on the final lap. His third-place finish was best among the four rookies in this year’s race.
The third Honda contender for the win today – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Max Chilton – led a race-high 50 laps after going a lap down to the leaders with handling issues early in the race. Adjustments made during early pit stops put Chilton back on a pace with the overall leaders, as he demonstrated by leading on four separate occasions in the 200-lap contest.
Mechanical issues eliminated two other Andretti Hondas, with Ryan Hunter-Reay dropping out on Lap 136 after leading 28 laps, second only to Chilton in a race with a record 15 different leaders. Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso continued his impressive rookie performance at the “Brickyard”, leading for 27 laps – third highest today –before dropping out on Lap 180.
In the first and most spectacular of the day’s crashes, pole-starter Scott Dixon struck the car of Jay Howard after the latter had made impact with the Turn 1 wall. Dixon’s car vaulted high into the air and landed upright on top of the infield retaining wall, but he escaped injury in the Lap 53 collision, as did Howard.
Video recaps from this month’s Honda racing activities at Indianapolis, including today’s Indianapolis 500, are being posted on the “Honda Racing/HPD” YouTube channel. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, the video packages can be found in the 2015 HPD Trackside Video Playlist at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
IndyCar Series teams and drivers now prepare for a hectic schedule of three races over the next two weeks, starting with next weekend’s June 3-4 double header weekend with races both Saturday and Sunday on the Belle Isle street circuit in Detroit, Michigan.
Takuma Sato (#26 Andretti Autosport Honda) 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner: “I won! I won the best race in the world! Unbelievable feeling. I cannot thank this whole team [enough]. Look at these guys. Fantastic. It was obviously a tough, tough race. But Helio [Castroneves] really drives fair. I can trust him. I can really [trust him] coming from the outside. It was fantastic race. What a race. Hopefully, the crowd enjoyed it. It’s beautiful. I dreamed of something like this since I was 12. I can’t thank everyone enough for their support. Until three laps to go, you really didn’t know [who would win]. Me and Helio went side by side with three laps to go. You’ve got to go for it, run it flat. And we did it, and we pulled away. Fantastic.”
Ed Jones (#19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda) top rookie finisher, 3rd: “It was a great race for us. I’ve had a great car the whole month, really. But the race was so up and down for us. We had a solid start and were running in the top 10 for most of the first half of the race. Then, when Dixon had his crash, I ran over some debris. It damaged the floor and the rear wing. We had to change the rear wing. That sent me to the back of the field, and we had to claw our way back up again. Then we got some luck back. The last yellow, we pitted right before it, so it put us near the front [of the field]. But then I had some bad luck again. I damaged my front wing, had a big hole in it. My legs got pretty cold, to be honest. I had wind blowing into them like crazy, and it created a lot of drag. That [made it] difficult in the straights. I couldn’t pull up to the leaders. We lacked that straight line speed for the last laps. It was really hard for me to defend or even attack, which was really a bit frustrating, because I think we had the car to win today. Great job to [Takuma] Sato and Helio [Castroneves]. But also a bit frustrating. I don’t know how many opportunities you get to be in that battle [for victory at Indianapolis].”
Fernando Alonso (#29 McLaren Honda Andretti Autosport Honda): “Obviously, I’m disappointed not to finish the race, because every race you compete, you want to be at the checkered flag. Today, it was not possible. But it was a great experience, the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in a Formula One car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an Indy car. It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know. You lead just one lap here, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking at that moment if Zak [Brown, McLaren team principal] or someone from the team was taking a picture, because I want that picture at home. Congratulations to Sato-san, to Andretti [Autosport]. We have been sharing the last two weeks, all the meetings in the morning, the meetings in the afternoon. Takuma was a lot of help, coming from F1. The last two laps I was on my knees really pushing Sato [for the victory]. I’m extremely happy for the final result. Last thing: thanks to IndyCar, amazing experience. Thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here. Thank you, the media. I didn’t win, but I will drink a little bit of [Takuma’s victory] milk! You followed me for two weeks, every single minute, but I really enjoy. Thanks for the welcoming. See you in Austin [for the US Grand Prix].”
Art St. Cyr (president, Honda Performance Development) on Honda’s 12th Indianapolis 500 victory in the last 14 years: “Indianapolis never fails to deliver an exciting event, and this was yet another year that will go down in Indy 500 lore. For Takuma Sato, this is redemption of a sort following his near-win in 2012, and he’ll prove to be a popular champion for race fans everywhere. Unfortunately, not all of our cars made it to the finish today. We’re grateful that Scott Dixon escaped serious injury in his crash. Mechanical failures took out two other leading contenders; however, that is sometimes the price that must be paid for gains in performance, and we clearly had speed all month, by any objective measurement. We definitely had some very well-performing engines in today’s race, and are very pleased with taking four of the top five finishing positions, and our 12th Indy 500 win in last 14 years. Congratulations again to Takuma, the entire Andretti Autosport organization, and everyone at Honda Performance Development for a fantastic result.”
Circuit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval), Indianapolis, IN
2016 Winner: Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport Honda) 166.634 mph average
Weather: Mostly sunny at start, increasing clouds and wind gusts, 75 degrees F
|1.||4.||Takuma Sato||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200||155.395 mph average, led 17 laps|
|2.||19.||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200||+0.2011 seconds, led 9 laps|
|3.||11.||Ed Jones-R||Dale Coyne Racing||Honda||200||Top rookie finisher|
|4.||15.||Max Chilton||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||200||Led race-high 50 laps|
|5.||7.||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||200||Led 22 laps|
|6.||18.||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200|
|7.||3.||Alexander Rossi||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200||Led 23 laps|
|8.||8.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||Honda||200|
|9.||25.||Gabby Chaves||Harding Racing||Chevrolet||200|
|10.||24.||Carlos Munoz||A.J. Foyt Racing||Chevrolet||200|
|11.||2.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing||Chevrolet||200|
|12.||14.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Honda||200||Led 2 laps|
|13.||13.||Mikhail Aleshin||Schmidt Peterson Mtspts||Honda||200|
|14.||23.||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||Chevrolet||200|
|15.||31.||Sebastian Saavedra||Juncos-AFS Racing||Chevrolet||200|
|16.||6.||JR Hildebrand||Ed Carpenter Racing||Chevrolet||200|
|17.||28.||Pippa Mann||Dale Coyne Racing||Honda||199||Running|
|18.||29.||Spencer Pigot||Juncos Racing||Chevrolet||194||Running|
|19.||22.||Josef Newgarden||Team Penske||Chevrolet||186||Running|
|20.||33.||James Davison||Dale Coyne Racing||Honda||183||Did not finish – crash|
|21.||12.||Oriol Servia||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Honda||183||Did not finish – crash|
|22.||17.||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Peterson Mtspts||Honda||183||Did not finish – crash|
|23.||9.||Will Power||Team Penske||Chevrolet||183||Did not finish – crash|
|24.||5.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda Andretti||Honda||179||Did not finish – mechanical|
|25.||16.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||166||Did not finish – mechanical|
|26.||32.||Zach Veach-R||A.J. Foyt Racing||Chevrolet||155||Did not finish – mechanical|
|27.||10.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||Honda||136||Did not finish – mechanical|
|28.||21.||Sage Karam||Dreyr & Reinbold Racing||Chevrolet||125||Did not finish – mechanical|
|29.||30.||Buddy Lazier||Lazier Racing Partners||Chevrolet||118||Did not finish – crash|
|30.||26.||Conor Daly||A.J. Foyt Racing||Chevrolet||65||Did not finish – crash|
|31.||27.||Jack Harvey-R||Michael Shank Racing||Honda||65||Did not finish – crash|
|32.||1.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||Honda||52||Did not finish – crash|
|33.||20.||Jay Howard||Schmidt Peterson Mtspts||Honda||45||Did not finish – crash|
R – Indy 500 Rookie