Photos: IMS/Chris Owens

Defending winner Takuma Sato to grace front of 2018 Indy 500 tickets

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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has unveiled what the ticket for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will look like.

The ticket features blue and red foil stamped with a sculptural embossing of last year’s 500 winner, Takuma Sato, in victory lane, holding the ceremonial winner’s bottle of milk. Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, driving for Andretti Autosport.

The ticket was revealed Thursday during a ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse that featured Sato, now with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as well as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark Miles, IMS President J. Douglas Boles and Hulman Motorsports Senior Vice President of Events Allison Melangton.

The Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be held Sunday, May 27 at IMS.

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NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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