Takuma Sato continued an Indianapolis 500 tradition that began 70 years ago when his face was unveiled on the ticket for the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil today at the Indiana Statehouse.
Sato was joined in the ceremony by Gov. Eric Holcomb; Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company which operates INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway; and Doug Boles, IMS president.
Boles pointed out that the first time that the winning Indianapolis 500 driver’s photo appeared on the following year’s race ticket was in 1948. Mauri Rose picked up the second of his three Indy 500 victories in 1947 and his face adorned the ticket the next year. That tradition has remained nearly every year since with a few exceptions.
Sato, who won “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 2017 following an exciting battle to the finish with three-time winner Helio Castroneves, got his first look at the oversized display ticket when he and Gov. Holcomb unveiled it.
“This is actually the first time I am really seeing it,” said Sato, who won the race for Andretti Autosport but is driving this season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. “This is genuinely surprising, and a good surprise. I’m really, really happy. To have the ticket and my face on it is an absolute honor.”
Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500, which raised his legendary status in his home country. He accompanied the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy on a tour of Japan over the winter that drew sensational crowds at each stop. It was another reminder for Sato of the global prestige that the Indianapolis 500 carries.
“History shows that this is the biggest sporting event in this world, so everybody’s really excited,” Sato said. “Having a ticket like this is absolutely amazing, so thank you very much. … To become the Indy 500 winner is the biggest dream of my whole entire race career.”
Boles told the Indianapolis Star at the event that ticket sales for this year’s race are ahead of last year’s sensational pace.
"Where we are right now, it’s really good," Boles said. "And it’s not just a small growth. It’s looking very good for 2018."
Tickets remain available at IMS.com. The race airs live nationally at 11 a.m. ET May 27 on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with the exception of a local live blackout in the Indianapolis market.
Kanaan making Le Mans return along with Dixon, Bourdais
Tony Kanaan made his debut in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans a year ago as a substitute for the injured Sebastien Bourdais. The popular Brazilian INDYCAR driver will be back again this year, but in a different Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
Kanaan will team with Andy Priaulx and Harry Tincknell in the No. 67 Ford GT that competes season-long in the World Endurance Championship. Kanaan drove for the Ganassi team in the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2014-17 but switched to AJ Foyt Racing this season.
Bourdais, whose full-time ride is with Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan in the Verizon IndyCar Series, will be back at Le Mans – his hometown – in the No. 68 Ford GT along with Joey Hand and Dirk Muller. The trio drove to the GTE Pro class victory in the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, 50 years after Ford GTs finished 1-2 in the most noted endurance sports car race in the world.
Four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champ Scott Dixon returns with co-drivers Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook in the No. 69 Ford GT. Dixon is set to begin his 18th season driving Indy cars next month, all but one year coming with Chip Ganassi Racing.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans begins on June 16, an off weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series.