INDIANAPOLIS – For most of the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, it appeared there would be a two-time winner of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
But instead of Scott Dixon, who dominated Sunday’s COVID-19 delayed race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was Takuma Sato of Japan – who previously won the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017 – that earned the victory.
Sato was in the lead being chased down in traffic by Dixon before a massive crash by Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammate Spencer Pigot severely damaged the pit road attenuator.
Pigot was helped from car and was being tended to by the AMR Safety Team on the frontstretch oe Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sato’s Honda took the white and yellow flag with Dixon’s Honda in his rear-view mirror.
There was nothing Dixon, the five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, could do as he watched a victory so easily in his grasp go to Sato.
Dixon led 111 laps. Sato only led 27, but was in the best position with the best car at the end of the race.
“Takuma got through the traffic pretty good and had just enough of a gap; that’s all it took,” winning team owner Bobby Rahal said. “For Takuma, a two-time winner of the Indy 500. That’s pretty cool.”
Sato won the race for the second time since 2017. Dixon’s Honda followed in a race that ended under caution.
Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate, Graham Rahal, was third followed by Santino Ferrucci for Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan.
Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden rounded out the top-five.
Sato hit traffic with seven laps to go, but both cars were stuck with a .9-second gap. That allowed Rahal and Ferrucci to close up on the two leaders.
Sato drove to the outside of Tony Kanaan with six laps to go down the backstretch, but Dixon was still eight tenths of a second behind the leader.
That was before Pigot’s massive crash coming out of turn four destroyed the pit road tire attenuator that serves as the abutment to pit road on lap 196.
It was the first time in the history of Indianapolis Motor Speedway that the Indianapolis 500 was contested without spectators.
However, several thousand fans were lined up outside the track on 16th Street with lawn chairs and tents to watch the race on one of the giant video boards near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum that can be seen through a large gap in the grandstands.
They were there to experience the race with all of the sounds and atmosphere.
Dixon, using the crafty savvy that has made him one of the best to ever drive an Indy car, let Sato take the lead on lap 158 in order to save fuel.
By using that strategy and letting Sato build enough of a gap, Dixon knew that the 2017 Indianapolis 500 driver would burn up his fuel at a faster rate.
Earlier in the race, Dixon passed pole winner Marco Andretti for the lead going into turn one at the start. He stayed in front through the first 26 laps, when he pitted during a caution period because of Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson’s crash in turn one.
Dixon’s Honda was the first off pit road, but was actually eighth on the restart to a group of cars that had pitted earlier in the race to use a different pit strategy.
Dixon dominated the first half of the race before the biggest crash of the contest happened on a lap-92 restart.
Conor Daly’s Chevrolet hit a curb in the apex of the turn four exit and that sent him spinning across the frontstraight apron. Rookie driver Oliver Askew tried to drive through the smoke, but instead his car veered hard into the inside wall.
Askew’s Chevrolet pancaked the wall with a huge hit. The 23-year-old driver from Jupiter, Fla., complained of leg pain when he slowly got out of the car, but was checked and released from the IU Health Infield Hospital.
When racing resumed on lap 101, Dixon was the leader before Alexander Rossi picked off Sato for second racing down the frontstraight.
Rossi and Dixon traded the lead nearly every lap before another caution flag when rookie Alex Palou crashed in turn one on lap 122.
That set up one of the key moments of the race.
Rossi came in for his pit stop. His outside rear tire changer had to retighten the lug nut on his tire after making the change. That got Rossi out of the pits a bit late. He was sent out of his pit box and his Honda made contact with Sato’s Honda.
IndyCar Race Control reviewed the incident and ordered Rossi to the back of the field for an unsafe pit release.
Rossi drove with aggression to battle back into contention. He passed six cars in a half-lap before giving up a position to Charlie Kimball.
Rossi was trying to fight his way out of mid-pack when his No. 27 NAPA Honda drifted high in turn two and hit the wall. He was 16th at the time of the crash.
“We were never planning on being that far back,” Rossi said after he was cleared and released from the IU Health Infield Care Center. “Yeah, we just lost it. It’s a lot of dirty air back there. It was tough in turn two all day, but up front where we should have been, the 27 Andretti Honda was awesome.
“I thought we had a car to win. I don’t even want to talk about the penalty right now. I’m going to have to have a long conversation with someone about that. I can’t see anything. I just go on what I’m told, but still, Takuma’s moving in reaction on restarts and doesn’t get a penalty. Just consistency … we’ll talk about it. I don’t have an opinion right now. It’s obviously frustrating.
“There’s two sides to every story.”
Dixon was in the lead on the restart ahead of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan tandem of Sato and Rahal.
Dixon let Sato take the lead on lap 158, hoping the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 would burn up his fuel at a faster rate.
Dixon pitted on lap 170 and was effectively battling Sato for the victory, although Zach Veach and Max Chilton were running ahead of those two contenders on a different fuel strategy.
Once Veach and Chilton pitted, it was Sato in the lead as he was being chased down by Dixon.
Both drivers were attempting to win their second Indianapolis 500, and ultimately, it was Sato who did just that.
To view race results, advance to the next page.