A driver with Formula 1 experience made it to victory lane in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. And it wasn’t Fernando Alonso.
Takuma Sato passed three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves with five laps to go to win Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s the second-straight win for Andretti Autosport and the team’s third in four years.
Castroneves made a daring pass of Sato with seven laps to go on the outside entering turn 3 but Sato got him back entering turn 1 less than two laps later.
It’s the second win of Sato’s IndyCar career and his first since 2013. He made 90 starts in Formula 1 from 2002-2008 before joining the IndyCar Series in 2010. Coincidentally, the only top-three finish of his Formula 1 career came in the 2004 Indianapolis Grand Prix on the speedway’s road course.
Castroneves finished second while rookie Ed Jones finished third.
Honda cars dominated the race, especially the ones of Andretti. But the engine manufacturer’s speed came at a cost. Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay had an engine failure and so did the Chip Ganassi Racing Honda of Charlie Kimball.
And then the engine malaise hit two-time Formula 1 champion and Andretti driver Alonso with 21 laps to go. Alonso, who might have had the fastest car while it was fully functioning, was running in the top 10 when his engine died on the frontstretch.
After starting on the second row, Sato ran up front all day. He even brushed the inside frontstretch wall attempting an inside pass earlier in the race too.
A win for Castroneves would have made him the fourth driver to win four Indianapolis 500s. Since his last win in 2009 he’s finished in the top 10 six times.
Polesitter Scott Dixon crashed out of the race early in a terrifying incident with Jay Howard. After Howard’s car slid into the wall it came down the track into Dixon’s path. The impact with Howard catapulted Dixon’s car into the air and into the inside wall. Thankfully, both drivers were able to get out of the cars and walk away.
The wreck between Dixon and Howard came in the first half of the race. The second half was plagued by cautions thanks to multiple crashes and debris from cars making contact with each other on restarts. The biggest crash came on the race’s penultimate restart when contact between James Davison and Oriol Servia triggered an incident that also included Josef Newgarden, Will Power and James Hinchcliffe.
The race’s 35 lead changes was down from the 54 lead changes the 2016 race featured. But Sunday’s race had 15 different leaders, the most in Indy 500 history.
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