Takuma Sato was naturally ecstatic to clinch victory in Sunday’s 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, and praised runner-up Helio Castroneves for driving cleanly as they battled for the win.
The Andretti Autosport driver became the first Japanese racer to win the legendary event, coming through to deny Team Penske’s Castroneves in the final stint, with the two battling hard across the final laps before Sato was able to take the chequered flag.
“It was obviously a very tough race but Helio (Castroneves) really drives fair,” said Sato. “I can trust him coming from the outside. It was a fantastic race.
“Until three laps to go I really didn’t know. When Helio came side by side with three to go that was the moment I really had to go for it. And we did it and pulled away and it was fantastic. It is unbelievable.”
Sato thanked both his current employers at Andretti Autosport and his former team at AJ Foyt Racing after the race, feeling both have given him great opportunities to race within the Verizon IndyCar Series in recent years, and he is proud to be able to triumph at Indianapolis and drink the traditionally post-race milk.
“I really have to thank A.J. Foyt because the last four years he gave me this tremendous experience on his team and now Michael Andretti gave me a fantastic opportunity with his team,” said Sato. “I want to thank all the 26 car guys and engineers, Honda, everyone.
“This is really awesome. The organization is unbelievable. I’m so proud of the whole team. It’s just a great victory. I’m so proud.”
Sato admitted he has been dreaming of winning such a major racing event since he was a child, and his ambition led him to finally triumphing at Indianapolis on his eighth attempt, putting to bed his 2012 disappointment when he crashed out whist battling Dario Franchitti for the lead on the final lap.
“I dreamed of something like this since I was 12,” said Sato. “You don’t just dream about it. Obviously, you prepare for the race. You want to win the race. I had huge ambition and I had to try.”