Supreme Sato holds off Dixon to win second Indianapolis 500 crown, Rahal third

The famous Indianapolis 500 is not called ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsport’ for nothing. At a distance of 500 miles and at average race speeds approaching 180mph, it has always been one of the biggest tests of driving skill, bravery, and teamwork.

For any driver to say they have won the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the IndyCar calendar once, would be a career achievement. But on Sunday, August 23, 2020, Takuma Sato achieved that exceedingly rare feat of becoming a double Indianapolis 500 winner, once again getting his hands on the famous Borg-Warner Trophy after holding off Scott Dixon and teammate Graham Rahal.

In doing so, Sato joined an elite list of winners, and once again had the unique opportunity of glugging from a cold bottle of milk when he exited the car – a tradition started when three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Louis Meyer drank buttermilk to refresh himself on a hot day. Sorry Takuma, but you still have one to go to match Louis, and a select few others!

Regardless, the extremely popular Japanese driver of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Team was understandably ecstatic when he stepped from his car after holding off New Zealand’s Dixon, with teammate Rahal joining the podium celebrations.

“Thankyou so much. Oh my god!” said Sato after the race. “We love Dixie, and obviously in terms of the fuel strategy it was a bit tight and we had to switch back and forth. I knew Scott was coming through out of Turn 4 and held him off… This is unbelievable for the entire Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Team. Bobby, Mike Lanigan, David Letterman, all the people.”

The fact that Sato was supposed to be a flag carrier for Japan at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo would surely have been a disappointment. But for the humble Japanese, merely spreading happiness during a time of global crisis is just the measure of the man.

“This is a mega sport and I am really proud to be a winner again, but especially for Japan, we had an earthquake in 2011 and still today we have problems so I hope this gives a little boost and energy so thanks for the support.”

It would turn out to be double whammy for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Team, partnered by Acronis, after Rahal came home in third place to complete the podium. But there was also a sense of relief when the race finished under a yellow flag, when Rahal’s third driver Spencer Pigot thankfully walked away unharmed after a huge impact with the barriers late in the race.

“Takuma ran hard all day long and at the end I was worried at the end that once we ran up against that traffic it mess things up, but Takuma got through it pretty good, Graham got through it pretty good and Takuma just had enough of a gap and that’s all it took,” said team boss Bobby Rahal afterward.” Of course the accident, who knows what would have happened those last five laps but I know Graham was giving it all he had, had a really good race. And for Takuma? Two-time winner of the Indy 500! That’s pretty cool!

“We have worked hard since last year’s Indy 500. Really proud of the team. We qualified well, the race pace was good and it’s tough to pass. Graham got close to Dixon but not close enough and Dixon couldn’t quite get it to Takuma, but obviously we feel very, very happy.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.