Gateway notes: Sato, Rossi visit St. Louis children’s hospital

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MADISON, Illinois – Prior to hitting the track at Gateway Motorsports Park on Friday, Andretti Autosport drivers Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi stopped by St. Louis’ SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital to meet pediatric patients of all ages during an event held by Racing For Kids at the 61-year old facility.

With the help of a handful of Glennon patients, the winners of the past two Indianapolis 500 unveiled a new Fregin Flyer – a Radio Flyer red wagon outfitted with a IV pole – that Racing For Kids donated to the hospital. The wagon gives young patients the opportunity to travel around the hospital without the need for a common IV pole.

“The kids were excited about the wagon,” said Sato, who became the first Japanese-born driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in May. “It’s nice to hear some cheering for that, and it was an honor to help bring this to this hospital with Alex. Racing For Kids is always a great time. To spend time with children and share a lot of fun, it’s nice to have a morning to come and spend a great time with the children.”

Patrick Wright, executive director of Racing For Kids, was pleased to make the wagon donation, but knows from decades of experience arranging the events at stops on the INDYCAR schedule that the driver visits provide some of the best medicine possible for the children.

“The most important thing with Alexander and Takuma here is that these events are a very important part of each child’s recovery therapy,” Wright said. “They get better faster when they see celebrities like this. (It) gives them hope, takes their mind off some very difficult, protractive treatments.”

Rossi echoed Wright’s thoughts and noted how the return of Indy car racing to the St. Louis area provides a chance for members of the community to benefit as well.

“It’s always a privilege to be able to come to a hospital, especially a children’s hospital and spending some time with kids and hopefully brighten their day a little bit,” the 2016 Indy 500 winner said. “It’s a pretty unique opportunity that we get to do that with a lot of the different communities we go to, so with INDYCAR’s return to St. Louis, it’s very fitting that we come and show the community what positive impact we can have by racing here.”

Founded in 1989, Racing For Kids has spearheaded numerous efforts across multiple forms of motor racing to bring focus to children’s health. Through visits, donations and fundraisers, Racing For Kids and its representatives have touched the lives of thousands of youngsters around the globe.

Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato

Sato’s new identity after Pocono pole run? Wild Thing

Takuma Sato is Charlie Sheen. That is not a typo.

Yes, the winner of the 101st Indianapolis 500 is “Wild Thing,” and there’s photographic evidence. NBCSN analyst and fellow driver Townsend Bell was so impressed with Sato’s flat-out, partially terrifying laps that won the pole position Aug. 19 at Pocono Raceway, he found a Cleveland Indians cap and classic broken horn-rimmed glasses and took a photo of Sato wearing them Friday at Gateway Motorsports Park.

Bingo. Sato is Ricky Vaughn, Sheen’s hard-throwing, hard-living character from the 1989 film “Major League.”

“The TV guys enjoyed my lap at Pocono,” Sato said, laughing while recalling the moment. “I nearly hit the wall on my second lap because I was going so hard, but I managed it.”

Bell posted the photo on Twitter with the caption “It’s official. ‘Wild Thing.’”

All of which made Sato smile.

“They in particular think that I am Wild Thing,” he said. “I enjoy that.”

It's official. "Wild Thing". @TakumaSatoRacer pic.twitter.com/MtoubeDKbf

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