Takuma Sato enters this weekend’s doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway hoping to avoid a post-Indy 500 hangover.
The races following the Indianapolis 500 haven’t been kind to the winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” especially the doubleheader races that have routinely followed the Indy 500 since 2013.
Since 2011, the Indy 500 winner has an average finish of 10.2 in the doubleheader races that follow Indianapolis (Dan Wheldon didn’t compete in Texas in 2011) and has only finished on the podium twice in that span – Dario Franchitti finished second at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in 2012, and Will Power finished second in the second race at Belle Isle in 2018.
It’s been 23 years since Arie Luyendyk won the Indianapolis 500 and the race that followed it at Texas Motor Speedway in 1997, and that was just the fifth time a driver had won the “500” and the race that immediately followed it since 1980.
Still, Sato heads into this weekend’s doubleheader as the most recent INDYCAR winner at the 1.25-mile oval at WWT Raceway.
“Last year’s race was a special one,” he said. “St. Louis is a great track. It’s quite challenging. Turn 1 and 2 and Turns 3 and 4 have quite different characteristics, and that makes for great fun for all of us. Last year it was such a special moment. We had a difficult week the week before and leading up to the event was a tough situation, but I was so pleased with the warm welcome at the venue. So many fans came up to me and cheered us on. What an amazing race result with the win. Even though it was midnight, so many fans remained for the podium.
“Once again, a great strategy worked, and the No. 30 team was extremely strong. I was very proud of that moment. It is good to return to defend our win after having just won the Indy 500 for a second time.”
In 2017, Sato won the Indy 500 then finished eighth and fourth respectively a week later in Belle Isle.