By: Spencer Neff
August 23, 2020
After an extra 91 days of waiting, the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge has been run. For the second time in four years, Takuma Sato has won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. He becomes the 20th driver with multiple wins, 10th with two and breaks a streak of nine different winners in nine years.
For Sato, he also earns his first win of 2020 and the sixth of his IndyCar career. On the day he led 27 laps, more than in his 2017 victory (17).
In becoming a two-time winner, Sato breaks a streak of four first-time “500” winners. In 2015, Juan Pablo Montoya was the last driver to earn multiple spots on the Borg-Warner Trophy.
Following Chevrolet’s dominance of 2018 and 2019 with the Universal Aero kit, Honda took control in this year’s running. It is their first 1-2 finish at the 500 since 2016 (Alexander Rossi and Carlos Munoz). During the lead-up to the race, the engine manufacturer saw their teams lead all but one full-field session.
Continuing on his stellar 2020, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon led 111 laps and finished second, his initial starting spot. With his third second-place effort, Dixon became the first driver since Dan Wheldon in 2006 to lead over 100 laps without winning.
Equaling his career-best finish from 2011, Graham Rahal made it two Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing drivers in the Top three. With their win, RLLR becomes the 20th entrant with multiple Indianapolis 500 wins and the 13th with two.
In 2004, the team won their only previous Indianapolis 500 with Buddy Rice. In 1986, Team Owner Bobby Rahal won as a driver.
With the winning pass made on Lap 185, it is the earliest the final lead change has occurred since 2009 (Helio Castroneves led the final 60 laps). Previously, nine straight runnings had the final pass for the lead happen within the last nine laps.
Completing a 1-2-3-4 sweep for Honda, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s Santino Ferrucci climbed from 19th to fourth, bettering his Rookie of the Year effort of 7th from 2019.
In Car Owner Roger Penske’s first “500” as owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Josef Newgarden finished fifth, best of the Chevrolet-powered cars.
After failing to qualify in 2019, Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio (Pato) O’Ward finished sixth and is the likely Rookie of the Year.
After eight straight races with 29 or more lead changes, today’s event featured 21 between 11 drivers. Though I and many others can appreciate making sure it’s tough to pass, the racing on super speedways has left something to be desired since 2018’s debut of the Universal Aero Kit. Hopefully, with none left for 2020, this can remedied in time for 2021, if not when the new chassis is set for introduction by 2022.
I will be far from the only one to say this but I am immensely grateful for the safety improvements IndyCar and auto racing as a whole have made in recent years.
Oliver Askew and Spencer Pigot both had violent impacts but emerged from their cars on their own. Following his impact with the pit attenuator, Pigot was transferred to Methodist Hospital but was awake and alert.
Despite the disappointment of finishing under caution, IndyCar made the right call by opting not to red-flag the race. With the damage to the pit attenuator and the need to attend to Pigot following his crash, putting safety and accounting for potential cleanup time first was the correct call.
After a questionable penalty for an unsafe pit release, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi crashed out of the race on Lap 144. For Rossi’s fifth appearance, it was his first DNF (did not finish). With another frustrating end that left him short of repeating his 2016 triumph, Rossi will be even hungrier in 2021.
For his 2020 hopes, another finish toward the back further hamper his chances at 2020. As the season winds down, he and the team will look to end a winless streak that dates back to Road America last year.
On the track, Dixon continues to tighten his grip on the series Championship with the only double points race of the season.. Though a 50th career win and second Indianapolis 500 will have to wait, a sixth championship is even closer to becoming reality for him.
For the NTT IndyCar Series, it is a short turnaround. On Saturday, the series will head to their final oval of 2020 and their third of four doubleheaders. It will be two 250-mile events at World Wide Technology Raceway, where Sato’s last victory occurred in 2019.
Thank You for stopping by IndyCar1909 and a big Thank You to the IMS and IndyCar staff for their help in allowing my to provide coverage. Look for the latest on this race and this weekend’s doubleheader in the coming days.
Image BY INDYCAR/Joe Skibinski