All photos courtesy BorgWarner

Honda welcomes Sato, Borg-Warner Trophy and more on ‘Thanks Day’

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We mentioned last week how the Borg-Warner Trophy was set to embark on its first ever trip outside the U.S., en route to Japan for a couple weeks.

A highlight event for the trophy, for 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil race winner Takuma Sato and more than two dozen other Honda drivers was Honda Racing’s THANKS DAY – held this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan.

With more than 20,000 fans in attendance ranging from babies to more senior fans, questions, pictures and memories flowed throughout the day to catch their glimpse of the trophy and Sato in his home country.

Fans admire the Borg-Warner Trophy.

Beyond the event and reveal of the trophy, Sato also ran some demonstration laps on the Twin Ring Motegi oval in his No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda that he won the ‘500 with for Andretti Autosport. The laps were the first turned on the oval since the Fukushima earthquake in 2011; the last Verizon IndyCar Series race held in Japan was at Motegi’s road course, a one-time only event held in 2011. The last oval race ran in 2010.

“Today has been amazing, one of the most special days of my life. I want to thanks Honda and BorgWarner for all they have done to make today great,” Sato said.

“Honda Racing THANKS DAY is about the fans and all their passion and loyalty. It was historic for the Borg-Warner Trophy to leave the United States for the very first time ever and come to Japan, it makes us all proud!

Young fans admire the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“I have been very fortunate to spend so many years with Honda and to win the Indianapolis 500 with them has been a dream. I love the Indianapolis 500 and the Borg-Warner Trophy and to share my win and the trophy here in Japan has been something I will never forget!

“I have had a big smile all day through all the events. Running laps in my Indy winning car today in front of all the happy fans was a thrill. I loved the cheers and appreciate their support. I am a happy smiling man like the man on the Borg-Warner Trophy.”

Past McLaren Honda F1 driver Jenson Button, who announced his return to Super GT at the weekend, and Repsol Honda MotoGP riders Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez were thrilled to see the trophy and Sato during the day as well. Former Honda chief Mr. Michihiro Asaka was there to witness the trophy and car. All of them chimed in on the day, as well.

Button admires the Borg-Warner Trophy.

“That is one amazing trophy!  There are so many of my friend’s faces on it and so many Formula 1 drivers who won at Indy too.  Neat to see Dario (Franchitti) and his three silver faces and look at Takuma, what a proud smile!” Button said of the trophy, and his friends.

Marquez and Pedrosa.

The Repsol Honda riders had the chance to race at Indianapolis, but hadn’t really understood the measure of the trophy until seeing it up close.

“That is one big trophy. So cool. That would be worth winning. I like the history it represents at a great track, Indianapolis. It is nice to see Takuma with all the other winners!” said Marquez.

Pedrosa added, “Wow, I like that trophy, I wish I won that for winning my races racing at Indianapolis. That is a great trophy representing racing in the United States.”

Mr. Asaka, who was instrumental in bringing Honda into IndyCar in 1994, said this was a truly special day for the company given its racing heritage and the success being able to come home.

“We were so happy getting the first Honda driver’s face on the Borg-Warner Trophy,” he said. “There are now so many great Honda drivers represented over the years. I am very proud of our success in racing and at Indianapolis. It was not always easy but we worked very hard to reach our goals. We are very honored the trophy came to Japan. It is historic and all the fans and media can’t believe they get to see it with their own eyes today. I have seen it many times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but I never, never thought I’d see it in Japan and at Twin Ring Motegi. This is a special, special day for all of us to share and remember.”

Sato, the Borg-Warner Trophy, and BorgWarner’s Scott Gallett.

Scott Gallett, Vice President of Market, BorgWarner Inc., put into perspective the day’s proceedings.

“It was my first time at the Honda Racing THANKS DAY. To see all the Honda Motor Sports drivers, cars, motorcycles and fans in one place at the same time makes it truly unique.

“Everywhere the Borg-Warner Trophy goes it attracts attention. The fans at the event brought this to a new higher level. They gathered to see the trophy in person non-stop all day long taking pictures and just staying to be in the presence of the iconic trophy on it’s first trip to Japan.

“Takuma Sato thanked BorgWarner and Honda repeatedly throughout the day and we could see the true joy on his face. BorgWarner was proud to help make the day more special for Takuma Sato and Honda. It was a very historical event.”

Gathering of stars at Honda Racing THANKS DAY.

Social media (more than just Sato and IndyCar) 

 

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

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With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

Follow @JerryBonkowski