Will Power wins; Franchitti awake and alert after last-lap crash (VIDEO, UPDATED)

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After a late yellow cost him a potential win on Saturday, Will Power was able to hold off Scott Dixon in the closing laps to take Race 2 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

However, the race ended with a frightening crash in Turn 5 involving Dario Franchitti, E.J. Viso and Takuma Sato. Franchitti and Sato made contact going into the turn, which sent Franchitti airborne and into the catch fence, sending debris everywhere across the track and over the fence as well toward the nearby grandstands.

Minutes later, however, Franchitti’s team owner, Chip Ganassi, said that Dario was awake and alert, even though his ankles and back were sore after the incident.

“He’s gonna take a trip to the hospital, that’s for sure,” Ganassi told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “But he’s okay.”

INDYCAR’s Amy Konrath later confirmed that Franchitti, awake and alert, would indeed go to a local Houston hospital.

The incident made for a muted Victory Lane as Power hoped that Franchitti was alright.

“It just looked bad, I hate seeing that,” Power said. “I just hope he’s OK…But it was a very good day [on the track]. We were able to help Helio out a bit [in the championship], and I just hope Dario is alright.

“I think we had the quickest car for sure. We were a little bit skating on cold tires but I knew that any time I wanted I could pull a bit of a gap on Dixon. I was very determined to get him there.”

Despite losing out to Power, Dixon was able to assume the IZOD IndyCar Series championship lead by 25 points after Helio Castroneves finished 23rd following a repair to the cracked gearbox housing on his machine early in the race.

Dixon also was thinking about Franchitti in the immediate aftermath, but did touch upon the massive shift in the championship.

“Another win would’ve been nice,” Dixon said. “We came up a little short. Will was being pretty aggressive there and hit us before the restart and then hit us going into Turn 4, which sort of got me sideways and he got the run on me down the backstraight.

“It is what it is. He’s obviously trying to take away as many points for his teammate as he could. But all in all, a pretty decent weekend. A good turnout in the points for us, but it’s still gonna be a tough weekend at [Auto Club Speedway].”

James Hinchcliffe finished third after being knocked out yesterday off the standing start. Justin Wilson claimed a fourth-place finish, and Sebastien Bourdais rounded out the Top 5.

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”