Takuma Sato, of Japan, signs an autograph for a fan during qualifications for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Saturday, May 22, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Takuma Sato will receive an overdue celebration this weekend for winning last year's Indianapolis 500 in front of empty grandstands.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway was empty aside from essential personnel last August when Sato won his second Indianapolis 500. The pandemic had prevented a crowd and it denied Sato some of the traditional spoils that come with the victory.

To help give Sato his due, the speedway will break from tradition Sunday and single out Sato during driver introductions. The hope is that the 135,000 fans in attendance will give the Japanese driver the cheers he missed last year. Sato will also take part in a special race day interview in front of the fans.

Sato, who also won in 2017, will take the Borg-Warner Trophy with him on Saturday during a parade where the 33 drivers in the field visit homes around Indianapolis decorated for the 500.

He starts 15th on Sunday driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and is trying to become the sixth driver to win consecutive Indianapolis 500s.


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