Sato: “I have to give 100 percent commitment. I knew I could do it”

Takuma Sato said winning his duel with Helio Castroneves to grab the 101st Indianapolis 500 was bolstered by self-belief and belief in his car, despite a slow pitstop that dropped him down the field.

Sato: “I have to give 100 percent commitment. I knew I could do it”
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda, Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda
Winner Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda celebrates
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet, Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda
Winner Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda celebrates
Winner Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda celebrates
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda, Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda takes the win
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda
Winning owner Michael Andretti, Andretti Autosport
Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda
Winner Takuma Sato, Andretti Autosport Honda celebrates

A dropped wheelnut produced a slow stop for Sato mid-race that dropped him back to the middle of the pack, but on each subsequent restart he moved forward, showing the pace he had demonstated for the past two weeks that resulted in his P4 slot on the grid.

Said Sato: "First of all, I'd like to say big thank you to Michael Andretti and whole team, Andretti Autosport. Without their support, obviously I cannot be here today. The entire month with my teammates working extremely seamlessly through the practice days, fantastic qualifying, very strong start.

“At one stage I lost momentum, go down to like P10 place. I just get down to my job, believe in the car, and in the pit stops.

“When the time comes, I have to give 100 percent commitment. I knew I could do it. But just, you know, waiting the moment. The last few laps – they were the moment!

“I know Helio is always coming on a charge. But he's just such a gentleman, such a fair player. I believe in him. We go side-by-side Turn 1. It was job done.

“The last few laps, the car worked beautifully. I just cannot thank enough everyone who supported.”

Asked how big a deal this would be back in Japan, the 40-year-old who also won the 2013 Grand Prix of Long Beach, said: “This will be mega big! I cannot imagine how it's going to be!

“Obviously, Motegi time, in Japan, it was a very good race, I thought. The fans very appreciate. For me, is a home race, is always something special.

“But nowadays, a lot of Japanese, the fans following IndyCar Series, particularly for the Indy 500. I know they were flying over from Japan today. Many, many people came. So I'm very really proud of what we achieved, and the team gave a super good opportunity.

“We showed finally a great result today, so I'm very, very pleased about it.” 

Andretti says Sato did an “awesome job”

Sato’s victory brought Michael Andretti his fifth Indy 500 win as a team owner, following up on Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Alexander Rossi (2016).

Andretti, who never won the race as a driver, said: “We had the right guy doing it, for sure. He drove a superb race. I watched him very closely. There were many times where he was in a difficult situation, and he would get out of the situation. He showed a lot of patience. But then when he had to go, he went.

“There was one move where he passed two cars on the outside in Turn 1, which was a very important move, because that gave him the track position of the top two guys in front of him. That was one of the moves of the race, in my opinion. When I saw that, I'm like, ‘Whoa, I think we're going to win this thing.’ He didn't let us down. He drove very, very well.

“I'm just so proud of everyone on this team. The difficult part of having multiple cars is not everybody is going to be happy. There are some other cars that were very, very strong today that we had that ran into bad luck. I feel really bad for them. But that's why we have six bullets in the gun.

“He came through for us. Taku did an awesome job. I'm so happy for him. Really happy for Honda. They worked really hard to get us here. I know how big this news is going to be tomorrow when they wake up in Japan. I'm really happy for them, that we were able to give them a win with our Japanese driver here.”

Sato joined Andretti Autosport last winter after five years at AJ Foyt Racing, and Andretti said out that his newest fulltime driver was a great acquisition.

“[Takuma] has brought a lot to our team. He's got a lot of experience, very technical. On top of it, he's a great guy. He's a great part of the team. He's done everything I thought he was going to do.

“I knew he was going to be fast here. He definitely didn't let us down. He didn't let us down in qualifying, and he definitely didn't let us down in the race. I'm very proud of that. So happy to have him on our team.”

Strategist admits trepidation over Turn 1

Team strategist Paul “Ziggy” Harcus, who first won the Indy 500 competing for Galmer with Al Unser Jr. in 1992, added: “I think the biggest thing there is we had good cars. We have such a great team chemistry, all the cars were good. We were all fast

“At the middle point of the race, we had a pit issue, dropped us back. Takuma did a good job of keeping his head, just sort of working one-by-one. When he went into Turn 1, I just sort of close my eyes half the time! I'm afraid. I keep thinking, Are we going to make it?

"Great driving. I think he did a great job today of keeping his head about him and racing up the front.”

Harcus also praised the #26 car’s race engineer Garrett Mothersead for setting up a car that needed very little adjustment through the race.

“The car was good all day, Garrett did a great job there,” he said. “We were confident on Carb Day, with the car, we adjusted there. Taku wasn't happy with the car, we went back on it.

“Today was very minor. One click of wing, a little bit on tire pressures. Really the car was underneath him all day, it was very good.”

 

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