Takuma Sato walked out of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield medical center wearing a sponsor’s hat that seemed to have an appropriate slogan written on the bill: “No attack, no chance.”
But after the Japanese driver made a gutsy attempt to pass Dario Franchitti on the last lap of Sunday’s Indy 500, Sato didn’t believe the message rang true.
Why? Because in his view, there was nothing risky about the move.
“Coming up to second (place) from the back of the field, that was ‘No attack, no chance,’” he said. “But on the last move? That wasn’t necessarily ‘No attack, no chance’ because, I was (inside of Franchitti) already before we turned in (to Turn 1).”
Sato contended Franchitti crowded him down below the white line, which gave the Rahal Letterman Racing driver nowhere to go.
“He didn’t seem to be giving me enough space,” Sato said. “I was well below the white line. I just couldn’t make it. … I was boxed in. I couldn’t come up. I was hoping we’d come out nicely, but we couldn’t do it.”
An ex-Formula One driver making his third Indy 500 start, Sato led 31 laps and seemed poised to pull off a surprising result in a race few had labeled him as a contender.
On the final restart, Sato was in seventh place but quickly sliced his way up through traffic to second. His pass of Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon was a particularly bold move.
Ultimately, though, he may have made his attempt at a winning pass too soon.
“He was so close to pulling that off,” Dixon said afterward. “If he maybe moved up on Dario a little bit more, it could have worked. … I don’t know why he didn’t wait a little longer. I really don’t.”
Sato said he decided to go for the pass in Turn 1 because he had gotten a “tow” (or draft) from Franchitti’s car and had the speed and positioning to do it. Waiting longer, he said, may not have played in his favor.
“I don’t think there was any other chance after that,” he said. “There’s not a great spot to overtake in Turn 3, because of the wind direction today.”
Race director Beaux Barfield told the drivers in a private meeting on Friday they would be required to leave a one-car-wide space on the inside lane while going into a turn.
Sato didn’t feel Franchitti did that, but said a penalty is “not a decision I do.”
“It’s reliant to Dario in the end,” he said. "I was in. (If) he moved up a little more to give me a one-car space on the inside, then we would have made it two cars coming into Turn 2.
“It’s just disappointing, because that was the race. I tried not to hit him, so we didn’t make any contact. We were down below the white line.”
Said Dixon, the Franchitti teammate: “It was brave, but I think Dario gave him room.”