Indy 500 Photo Spectacular…SATO BLASTS THE BRICKYARD!
Our Indy 500 photo spectacular was the effort of many talented individuals. Let decorated writer Cole Coonce lead you through the experience.
For good or ill, the always-breathtaking Japanese speed racer Takuma Sato has been making memories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a few years now, and over Memorial Day weekend he tora-tora-tora’d his way to the top of the pylon in his usual, decisive slicing style.
After slingshotting from third to first on the 194th lap, Sato stood his ground in his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport racer and won the 101st Indy 500 despite the persistent pecking of Penske man and perennial podium potentate Helio Castroneves, a 3-time winning Brazilian emigrée who earlier in the race dove under catapulting pole-sitter Scott Dixon. After that death-defying melee, Helio powered his way to the lead pack with a machine missing essential aero pieces that had shaken loose during that deft but bumpy evasive action.
(Parenthetically, that was Dixon’s second brush with death in Speedway, Indiana in about a week’s time, after having a gun put in his face at a Taco Bell drive-through.)
Beyond Dixon’s travails, on and off the track there was an edge of violence during the entire Month of May. Fast guy Sébastien Bourdais was on his way to the provisional pole when a loose back end and instinctual opposite lock sent his Dale Coyne Racing entry into the Turn 2 wall. In another era, such an impact would’ve vaporized both man and machine and tele-transported Bourdais into the Great Speed Chart in the sky. This year, mercifully, SeaBass, was an outpatient from IU Health Methodist Hospital and not a guest at Conkle Funeral Home.
In one of the most violent crashes we have seen in years, pole-sitter Scott Dixon collided with Jay Howard on lap 53 sending Dixon careening through the air before hitting the catch fence, ripping his car literally in half. He was uninjured.
Destruction was prevalent, if not predominant as you can see in this Indy 500 photo spectacular. Seven Honda engines grenaded at Indy before the race even began, and the sludgefest continued after the green flag fluttered on race day. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, and Fernando Alonso all lunched their Honda mills during competition, and that, along with a risky fuel strategy allowed Chevy-man Castroneves to mix it up at the finish with Sato and British-born rookie Ed Jones.
Ultimately this race was redemption for the Japanese journeyman. Sato lost the Indy 500 in 2012 with an ill-timed, last-lap banzai move for the lead that wiped out any chance of triumph and sent him careening into the wall in the Speedway’s short chute as Dario Franchitti motored away to take the milk bottle.
Beyond the Japanese national, 2017’s proverbial podium included a Brazilian emigree (Helio) and a Brit who hangs his bowler in Bahrain (Jones).
Japan. Brazil. Great Britain. Bahrain. Citizens from these countries cleaned America’s clock on a Memorial Day weekend loaded with more jingoism in its pre-race ceremonies than a John Wayne movie.
The more dignified patriotic displays included a B-52 flyover during the National Anthem and a series of “Greatest Generation”-style testimonial playbacks on the video screens.
But not all the patriotic pageantry was that poised and majestic. Beginning at the Carb Day concert, two days before the actual race, the Indy 500’s Memorial Day mise-en-scène became a Dickensian dichotomy. Indeed, for every serviceman decorated in a creased immaculate uniform, wildly inebriated patriotic throngs sported red, white, and blue do-rags, Daisy Dukes, and thongs repurposed from Old Glory. An afternoon of Hoosier-state heat, humidity and suds-soaked pores lead to ripped race fans soiling their nation’s colors with more sweat than Bill Vukovich’s once-white jumpsuit. No, they don’t catch the contradiction nor the irony nor the statement they are making. Because, you know, America.
As an example of the intolerance and the hypocrisy, after Sato’s spectacular, sphincter-tightening win Denver Post sportswriter (well, now ex-Post sportswriter) Terry Frei tweeted: “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese-American driver winning the Indy 500 during Memorial Day weekend.”
That’s great. But these days, we are allies — and the more our current administration alienates foreigners who have traditionally been on our side, the more we need our allies. And without Japanese input in the form of supplying over half the field with race engines, arguably there wouldn’t be any Indy 500 these days.
And unlike some people we can mention, when it comes to bravery and valor, Takuma Sato did not defer. To that end, after a dramatic, thrilling drive to victory that more than transcends the vulgar display of portly, plastered pseudo-patriots in stitched-together stars and stripes as a slovenly sartorial statement, the sober motorhead can only exclaim: “Thanks for your service, Sato.”