Mid-Ohio notes: Sato to receive prestigious Japan Prime Minister’s Award

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – The honors keep coming for Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.

Today in his native Japan, the Andretti Autosport driver was named the recipient of the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for his groundbreaking victory May 28 in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500, outlasting three-time winner Helio Castroneves in a thrilling battle to the finish. The 40-year-old will return home to officially be presented with the award by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Aug. 4.

“It means a lot personally but I think it’s great for the sport,” Sato said. “I really appreciate the support I am getting and this award is certainly an absolute honor to have it. I just couldn’t be happier.”

Sato is just the 33rd recipient of the Prime Minister’s Award, an appropriate number since 33 cars traditionally compete in the Indianapolis 500.

Season champion to be honored in NBCSN prime-time telecast

INDYCAR is helping its loyal fans share in the celebration crowning the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series champion with an hour-long program airing in prime time Sept. 28 on NBCSN.

The show will honor the driver and team who win this year’s title, as well as other award winners, and include a recap of this riveting season that has already seen nine different drivers win in the first 12 races. It is part of an extensive INDYCAR plan to properly fete the 2017 champion.

INDYCAR and NBCSN are also increasing promotion of the championship battle – which currently sees the top four drivers in the standings separated by a mere 23 points – in the races leading to the season finale, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Sept. 18.

“The battle for the Verizon IndyCar Series championship has been decided in the final laps of the season for the past 11 years running, and we expect that to be the case again in 2017,” said C.J. O’Donnell, chief marketing officer for INDYCAR. “We have a comprehensive promotional plan that will heighten the excitement and anticipation in the remaining few races. Our broadcast and communications strategy provides a solid platform to champion our heroes and thrill our fans.”

The Astor Cup, the century-old trophy that has been presented to the Verizon IndyCar Series champion annually since 2011, will travel to the three races before the finale – the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway on Aug. 20, the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline at Gateway Motorsports Park on Aug. 26, and the INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen at Watkins Glen International on Sept. 3. The Astor Cup will be on display at those events for fans to see and to serve as an inspiration for the contending drivers.

The 2017 champion will also embark on a national media tour at the conclusion of the season. The INDYCAR community will honor this year’s champion driver and team in a March 2018 event at St. Petersburg, Florida, that will serve to commemorate the 2017 award winners while at the same time ringing in the beginning of the exciting new season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

From the fans