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INDY 500 CHAMP SATO VISITS DALLAS COWBOYS, SURPRISES HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER ON DFW LEG OF CHAMPIONS TOUR

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato, the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in its 101-year history spent the day in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex Wednesday as part of his national media tour following his victory.

After a series of interviews in the morning, Sato had the opportunity to visit with America’s Team – the Dallas Cowboys – and later with the heroes of America’s future – teachers at Billy Ryan High School – during his visit to the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country.

Sato enjoyed a private tour of the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility at The Star in Frisco and then watched practice as the team went through OTA’s on the field. Following the conclusion of practice, he met a number of Cowboys players, including stars such as quarterback Dak Prescott, wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Ezekiel Elliott and tight end Jason Witten among others, and presented each with a commemorative Indy 500 milk bottle signed by him. Dallas Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett also stopped by and Sato presented him with a helmet that was signed by the 33 starters in Sunday’s Indy 500.

Prescott presented Sato with an autographed football and the team provided him with merchandise for the Cowboys’ newest fan.

Sato got the chance to speak to a throng of media to discuss his win last Sunday at Indianapolis.

“It is absolutely a privilege to race with Helio Castroneves,” the champion said of his dual with the three-time Indy 500 winner. “Helio is the guy to beat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He’s such a hard charger and he is one of the most competitive guys in the field, but he is such a fair player.”

He also spoke of what it meant in his homeland after becoming the first Japanese native to win the race.

“It’s gone crazy in the correct manner, of course,” the Toyko native said. “Japan has been suffering from the tragic earthquake and tsunami since 2011. I do have my charity program with Japan specifically with helping for the children coming from the devastated areas. Certainly this kind of news is hitting big time and assuring the support we needed.”

While Sato was still basking in the glory of his victory at Indy, he has an eye on the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on Saturday, June 10 at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Texas is a mega place with mega banking. It used to be a two-wide and three-wide track were we get up to incredible speeds,” he said. “The fans always give us great support there and I have always enjoyed racing at Texas. The changes in Turns 1 and 2 have reduced the banking and made the track wider with more grip. So the speed we can do should be increasing. They got rid of the bumps with the new surface so it should be fast.”

Following the Cowboys visit, Sato headed to Ryan High School in Denton to surprise one of the teachers that also is a Texas Motor Speedway Speedway Club member and season ticket holder. The high school was holding a retirement ceremony for 11 of its teachers and Karen Guenther was among the audience of more than 200 faculty members supporting her outgoing colleagues.

Principal Vernon Reeves saved Sato for the close of the ceremony. He told the faculty that he wanted to introduce a new teacher that would begin next year as the new driver’s education teacher for the students. And in walked Sato much to their surprise.

Little did Guenther, a 33-year veteran of the Denton ISD and 36th overall in education, know that she also would be honored even though she was not among those retiring. Texas Motor Speedway wanted to show their appreciation for her loyalty to the speedway and for being an avid Indy-car fan, so they delivered the freshly crowned Indy 500 champ to do the honors. Sato, who received a standing ovation from the faculty, addressed the teachers to discuss his career path as well as how important they are in molding the future of our world.

Reeves said that in all of his years at the school he had never seen Guenther cry … until Wednesday. Sato performed the ceremonial Indy 500 champion’s milk toast in champagne flutes with Guenther and then presented her with a mini-TMS helmet he personally signed and a TMS “No Limits” backpack full of goodies. She choked up speaking to her colleagues about the surprise visit and that led to tears of joy. “Unbelievably surprised,” said Guenther, who serves as Ryan High’s campus testing coordinator. “When he came in, I knew he was in town for the media tour so I thought it was going to be an educational thing. But when they called my name, it was a total shock.”

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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