INDIANAPOLIS – Takuma Sato continued the feel the warmth of winning the 104th Indianapolis 500 from last August, even on a very cold day with a foot of snow on the ground at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sato’s ray of light came from the shining Borg-Warner Trophy that immortalizes the winners of every Indianapolis 500. On Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Sato’s face was unveiled on the trophy for a second time.
“This one is a little shinier and the smile is better,” Sato told SPEED SPORT of his second sterling silver face on the trophy. “Two faces, I can’t believe how fortunate I am to be in this situation. I hope I’m fortunate enough to experience it a third time.
“It’s always a great honor to be here and feel the tremendous joy of excitement that comes from this fantastic event. It’s a little different from the usual time, but it’s nice to see everybody here.”
Typically, the winning driver of the Indy 500 has his face added to the trophy in November or December, generally in conjunction with the Performance Racing Industry Show.
However, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the PRI show was canceled at the Indiana Convention Center and a virtual week of seminars was held.
BorgWarner officials and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway moved the trophy event to February 19 to kick off the “100 days until the Indianapolis 500” celebration.
This year’s race is scheduled for May 30.
Sato will once again be one of the favorites at Indy in May, because he has won the famed race twice since 2017. That year, he drove the Andretti Autosport Honda to victory.
Last August, he delivered on his promise to Rahal Letterman Lanigan team owners that he would win the Indy 500 to make up for the one that got away on the last lap of the 2012 race.
Nine years ago, he dove to the inside of leader Dario Franchitti entering turn one on the final lap, lost control on the apron and hit the wall. Franchitti coasted to the win.
In 2020, there was little doubt as he defeated NTT IndyCar Series legend Scott Dixon to the checkered flag in a race that had been moved to Aug. 23 and held without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Any win is really appreciated, but of course 2020 without spectators, we missed them big-time,” Sato said. “We missed that from the sport, but we were so fortunate just to have the race. IMS and IndyCar did an incredible job, and I was happy for them.
“For me, I was so happy to take Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and Michael Lanigan into victory lane on that day. That was a long wait, especially since 2012. I owed that win to them. It took eight years, but I was so happy. The entire team did a great job.”
Sato was able to defeat Dixon, who went on to win his sixth NTT IndyCar Series championship last year. Although Dixon led the most laps in the race, Sato’s Honda was equally fast and was the fastest at the end of the race, when it mattered the most.
“We knew we had the strongest car at the end of the race,” Sato said. “We started third and we knew Dixie had a very fast car, but we were able to use the right strategy over the last two pit stop stints for it to all come together.
“We made no mistakes in the pits and my engineer Eddie Jones built me the best car and I had to thank him for that.”
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