Long-form: Indy 500 champ Takuma Sato comes to Japan GP (VIDEO)

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In the first five minutes of Part 2 of the post-Japanese Grand Prix edition of Paddock Pass, NBCSN Formula 1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton had the opportunity to catch up with Takuma Sato, who competed in F1 from 2002 to 2008 with BAR, Honda and Super Aguri.

Sato captured this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in a thrilling duel with Helio Castroneves, with Ed Jones and Max Chilton also figuring into the race’s outcome before Sato beat them all.

He also conducted the podium interviews at the Japanese Grand Prix, race winner Lewis Hamilton even trying on his Indianapolis 500 winner’s ring.

The ‘500 champion will have his likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy revealed next Tuesday, Oct. 17, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. But Sato reflected a bit on what he accomplished when chatting with Buxton.

“It’s an incredible moment in my life. Winning the Indy 500 is so special,” Sato told NBCSN.

“It was fun. It was good to see Fernando smiling every single day. Fernando coming on board was a significant moment.

“Five years ago it was so close. It didn’t happen in our favor, but I learned so much. Now this has been a dream come true.”

“I can’t thank the Andretti Autosport team enough, but now in 2018 I’ll be back home with Bobby Rahal. Working with Graham as a teammate will be incredible. We’ll have a new challenge and it’s a great challenge.”

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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