I have long been a fan of the event (and it still is an event), and do my best not to miss it because it does have special meaning to me.
While often the crashes are the most spectacular and most-watched post-race videos by casual fans of any kind of motor car racing—you have to see the non-lethal crash of pole-sitter Scott Dixon HERE—the 2017 Indy 500 race to the checkered flag was also hotly contested.
(I have never called the racetrack by its nickname of The Brickyard, by the way).
The winner - Sato Takuma (佐藤 琢磨, surname first), is the first-ever Japanese driver to win the Indianapolos 500.
He grabbed the lead with 10 laps remaining and fended off three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castrovenes.
Had Castrovenes won it, he would have tied the record of four for most wins by a racer at this event with Rick Mears, Al Unser. and my man A.J. Foyt.
Armed with a plethora of names that are all wildly construed as “first” names, I was always being called Joseph Andrew… but after watching AJ Foyt win his 4th Indy 500 race in 1977, I told everyone to call me AJ, as in AJ Foyt.
Everyone knew who that was, so there I was… now nicknamed AJ.
For the new kid at a school, and for a visible minority dying to fit in, being granted a nickname—even if I suggested it—was like winning the lottery for me.
It is possible, that Mike Fricke actually came up with my nickname as we discussed the race the next morning. The fact that I can recall that from 1977 has me believe it to be more correct.
It was Sato’s second career victory in the Verizon IndyCar Series; his first was the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2013, when he drove for A.J. Foyt Racing. Yeah, that AJ Foyt…
See how I can make anything about me? That’s either ego or dumb luck.
Sato, by the way, drove in car No. 14 when he was on AJ’s team - that was AJ’s car number when he himself raced…
I can recall watching him (AJ Foyt) at one race pulling into the pit stop, getting out and just hammering the crap out of his car with a wrench in total disgust… backing up his nickname as the Mad Texan.
Sato almost won the 2012 Indianapolis 500 race, but crashed on the last lap as he tried an aggressive pass of leader Dario Franchitti, losing control and slamming hard into the wall.
Sato, born on January 28, 1977 - mere months before AJ Foyt won his last Indianapolis 500, was born in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo.
Racing now for the Andretti Autosport team in the IndyCar Series, Sato is actually the first driver from an Asian country to have won the race.
He stands just 1.64 meters tall (most racers these days are shorter to better fit within the plethora of safety features tucked in their cars), and pilots a car with a Honda engine…
Sato married his wife Chiharu after dating for three years on on July 31, 2005, and have two kids: a boy born in 2006 and a daughter in 2008… the latter born at Monaco’s Princess Grace Hospital. The family lives in Denver, Colorado… so despite being proud of his Japanese heritage, the folks in Japan won’t get a chance to fete him - unless a special tour can be arranged after the racing season.
Here’s his race career:
- Graduating to Formula One (F1) racing with the Jordan team (racing in a Honda) in 2002;
- Raced for Lucky Strike BAR (British American Racing) between 2003-2005 in a Honda;
- In 2006-8, he joined the Super Aguri F1 team run by former Japanese driver Suzuki Aguri (surname first).
- Out of F1 racing for a while, he joined the IndyCar Series in 2010-11, signing with KV Racing Technology - he did win two pole positions in 2011 driving a Lotus;
- Raced for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2012;
- A.J. Foyt Enterprises in 2013-16 - got his first IndyCar victory at the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, California - first Japanese to win any IndyCar race. He also won two pole positions each in 2013 and 2014;
- Joined Andretti Autosport in 2017 - won the 2017 Indy 500.