In an instant, the rear end of Sato's blue-and-white #15 machine broke loose. "I was almost in the [infield] grass and the car started sliding," Sato recalled. He spun, making brief contact with Franchitti before drifting helplessly into the outside wall. For his part, Franchitti hung on. "I kept my foot in [the throttle] and that was it," Franchitti, who went on to win the race - for the third time - under the Sato-induced yellow, said afterward.
Naturally, there was plenty of second-guessing after Sato's crash. Some thought attempting to pass was foolish. But, as the late Formula One legend Ayrton Senna once said, "The main motivation for all of us is to compete for victory. It's not to come in third, fourth, fifth, or sixth."
Team owner Bobby Rahal, who won the Indianapolis 500 in 1986, was philosophical about his driver's move. "What can I say?" he tweeted after the race. "When it's the last lap of the Indy 500 you go for it!" Franchitti was likewise reflective about Sato's gutsy decision. "I mean, why not?" he said.
Sato, who competed for six years in Formula One before defecting to IndyCar, is still seeking his first win in the series - although he has claimed two pole positions thus far. Rest assured, his aggressive style will not change. He does, however, make one small request of Dario Franchitti, shared at the drivers' banquet after the race: "I'm small, but I need more room."
* The Andretti Curse remains unbroken, as Marco Andretti crashed hard into the wall with 12 laps to go. The current record: Andretti 1, Indy 55.
* IndyCar officials black-flagged both Lotus-powered machines, driven by Simona De Silvestro and Jean Alesi, ending their day early. The cars simply weren't up to speed and posed a danger to the other, faster drivers. "I'm disappointed," De Silvestro said afterward. "But we didn't have speed from the beginning. I understand the call. We have to have more horsepower to be competitive."
* Somewhere up there, Dan Wheldon is smiling. His three closest friends - Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon, and Tony Kanaan - comprised the top three finishers at this year's race. Speaking of Wheldon, Dario Franchitti showed real class by including Wheldon's widow, Susie, in his post-race celebration - even inviting her to join him and his wife, Ashley Judd, on his victory lap.