Takuma Sato wins his second Indianapolis 500 at empty track

At an eerily empty Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Takuma Sato snatched a second Indianapolis 500 victory in an odd and unsatisfying finish to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Posted: Aug 23, 2020 5:55 PM
Updated: Aug 23, 2020 7:45 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — At an eerily empty Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Takuma Sato snatched a second Indianapolis 500 victory in an odd and unsatisfying finish to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Sato held off Scott Dixon and won under caution after teammate Spencer Pigot crashed with five laps remaining in Sunday’s race, run in front of empty grandstands for the first time in 104 runnings because of the pandemic.

Pigot needed medical attention on the track, the crash scene was a massive debris field and the cleanup time would have been lengthy. There were also just four laps left in the race, not really enough time to allow for a proper restart.

If it had been a NASCAR race, a stoppage would have been immediate to set up a final shootout. IndyCar tends to avoid gimmicks and a late red-flag in the 2014 Indy 500 incensed purists.

Dixon, the five-time IndyCar champion who had dominated the race, asked on his radio if IndyCar was going to give the drivers a final shootout.

“Are they going red?” Dixon asked. “They’ve got to go red. There’s no way they can clean that up.”

The answer was no, turning the end of the race into a game of what-ifs.

“Its a little silly to predict what might have happened. The reality is Takuma won,” said winning car owner Bobby Rahal. “This isnt the first 500 to be flagged under yellow and there was a hell of a mess out there.”

IndyCar said in a statement after the finish “there were too few laps remaining to gather the field behind the pace car, issue a red flag and then restart for a green-flag finish.”

Dixon was visibly disappointed after leading 111 of the 200 laps in pursuit of his own second Indy win.

“Definitely a hard one to swallow for sure. We had such a great day,” Dixon said. “First time I’ve seen them let it run out like that. I thought they’d throw a red.”

Dixon had figured he would ultimately run down Sato as Sato worked through lapped traffic, and he believed Sato’s team was cutting it close on fuel. Rahal said his driver had enough gas to get to the end.

None of it mattered in the end as Sato was able to coast around the speedway then ride the lift new track owner Roger Penske installed to take the winner to an elevated victory circle. Along for the ride were Rahal, the 1986 Indy 500 winner, and David Letterman, his mask buried in an unruly gray beard as the longtime comedian and TV host greeted Sato.

“Let me just say, if someone said to me this morning at the end of the Indianapolis 500 that Takuma Sato and Scott Dixon and Graham Rahal would be racing for the lead, I would say that’s a dream, that’s a dream come true,” Letterman said. “And I woke up and it turned out we won the Indianapolis 500.”

Sato became the first Japanese winner of the Indy 500 in 2017. Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was third behind Dixon.

Sato knew Dixon was going to be tough to beat under green.

“I know Scott was coming right through, out of turn four, he was screaming coming,” Sato said. “I had to hold him off.”

The celebration was somewhat muted as the RLL team had a socially distanced winner’s circle. Penske was forced to host his first 500 as owner of the iconic speedway without fans and it made the largest venue in the world eerily quiet. The speedway typically draws more than 300,000 spectators on race day; Penske said there would be only 2,500 in attendance Sunday.

It was Pigot, the third Rahal driver, whose crash set up the controversial finish. His nasty hit destroyed his car and he was prone on the track being treated before he was taken to a hospital for further examination. IndyCar said he was awake and alert.

The Sato win helped Honda snap Chevrolet’s two-year Indy 500 winning streak. Santino Ferrucui finished fourth as Honda took the fist four spots.

Reigning series champion Josef Newgarden was fifth, the highest-finishing Chevrolet driver and best of the four-car Team Penske group. Chevrolet lagged behind Honda in speed the entire buildup to the 500 and had just one driver start in the front nine.

Mired in traffic, the Chevy group never contended.

No one did, really, as Dixon seemed to have it under control after casually passing pole-sitter Marco Andretti in the first turn of the first lap and pulling away. Andretti was seeking to end the 51-year losing streak for his famous family and had a shot with the first Andretti pole in 33 years. After Dixon took command, Andretti slid back into the field and ultimately finished 13th.

Fernando Alonso, attempting to win the final leg of motorsports’ version of the Triple Crown, was 21st and never contended. This was his third attempt at winning Indy and the two-time Formula One champion is returning to that series in 2021.

West Lafayette
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 54°
Kokomo
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 64°
Rensselaer
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Fowler
Clear
60° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 60°
Williamsport
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 59°
Crawfordsville
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 63°
Frankfort
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 61°
Delphi
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 58°
Monticello
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 58°
Logansport
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 59°
Another chilly start but breezy and partly sunny today
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1000163

Reported Deaths: 16309
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1347632106
Lake660041156
Allen57441793
Hamilton46100461
St. Joseph44109607
Elkhart35696507
Vanderburgh32087477
Tippecanoe27796257
Johnson24902443
Hendricks23738354
Porter22802362
Madison18614404
Clark18424250
Vigo17347301
Monroe15180197
LaPorte15046250
Delaware14984259
Howard14626287
Kosciusko12217147
Hancock11630175
Bartholomew11505179
Warrick11255189
Floyd11013214
Wayne10897250
Grant9964218
Morgan9404176
Boone8863116
Dubois8227130
Dearborn817093
Henry8139151
Noble7984106
Marshall7838134
Cass7499119
Lawrence7403170
Shelby7138114
Jackson694088
Gibson6533113
Harrison644491
Huntington633999
Knox6273106
DeKalb626397
Montgomery6208109
Miami589797
Putnam575377
Clinton570271
Whitley560455
Steuben554675
Wabash5279101
Jasper524475
Jefferson506996
Ripley495685
Adams476073
Daviess4616113
Scott435869
Greene422096
Wells420987
Clay420260
White415962
Decatur4133101
Fayette404286
Jennings385160
Posey375343
LaGrange353978
Washington353249
Randolph341999
Spencer337342
Fountain332558
Sullivan326752
Starke313369
Owen312070
Fulton306567
Orange291762
Jay280445
Perry264752
Franklin264042
Carroll259132
Rush258832
Vermillion255454
Parke230026
Pike227943
Tipton226659
Blackford190540
Pulaski181855
Crawford158623
Newton156048
Benton150217
Brown144547
Martin137419
Switzerland134211
Warren120516
Union106815
Ohio84112
Unassigned0538

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events