Japanese driver Takuma Sato snatched his second Indianapolis 500 victory on Sunday, holding off Scott Dixon before winning under caution at an empty racetrack.
Sato denied five-time IndyCar champion Dixon after race officials declined to throw a red flag following a late crash by Spencer Pigot. Fernando Alonso, bidding to complete a “triple crown” having won the Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans 24 hour race, could only finish in 21st place.
Dixon was unhappy with the decision, having led for 111 of the total 200 laps. Pigot needed medical attention on the track, and his crash left debris all over the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Definitely a hard one to swallow for sure,” the New Zealander said. “First time I’ve seen them let it run out like that. I thought they’d throw a red [flag].”
Unlike Nascar, which typically runs two-lap shootouts to the finish when a caution interrupts the ending, IndyCar rarely follows the same procedure. Sato was instead able to coast around the speedway, with Dixon’s plan to run down his rival as he worked through lapped traffic spoiled by the crash with four laps to go.
Sato, who also won here in 2017, said he knew Dixon would have been tough to beat under green. “I know Scott was coming right through, out of turn four, he was screaming”, Sato said. “I had to hold him off.”
Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate, Graham Rahal, came in third. Team owners David Letterman and Graham’s father, Bobby Rahal, were at the track to congratulate both riders. The new track owner, Roger Penske, was hosting his first Indy 500 without spectators present, although a new lift that carried Sato up to an elevated victory circle did liven up the formalities.
The speedway typically draws more than 300,000 spectators for one of the biggest live sport events in the US; Penske said there would be only 2,500 people in attendance Sunday due to the coronavirus outbreak. Santino Ferrucui came fourth, with Josef Newgarden the highest-placed Chevrolet in fifth.
Pigot, the third Rahal driver in the race, was taken to local hospital for further examination after his crash. IndyCar has said he is awake and alert.