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INDY 500 CHAMP SATO VISITS DALLAS COWBOYS, SURPRISES HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

Takuma Sato

FORT WORTH, Texas (May 31, 2017) – The following is an event recap with photo and video links from the Indianapolis 500 Champion’s Tour featuring newly crowned winner Takuma Sato making a stop Wednesday in Dallas/Fort Worth.

Sato, the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in its 101-year history this past Sunday, arrived from New York City last night for a full day of media activities in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The Andretti Autosport driver will return with the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series field for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on Saturday, June 10, at Texas Motor Speedway.

Event Recap

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 Organized Team Activities (OTA) 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.

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.

The Highlight

Denton Ryan High School Principal Vernon 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.”

What They Are Saying

“It was an incredible time and experience, and significant time of my life. This is just unbelievable. I just want to say a big thank you to (owner) Michael (Andretti) and the whole entire team at Andretti Autosport.” – Andretti Autosport driver Takuma Sato on winning Sunday’s Indy 500.

“It is absolutely a privilege to race with Helio Castroneves. 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.”  Sato on his battle with three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves in the closing laps of Sunday’s Indy 500.

“I see you got the bling.”  Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott upon meeting Sato after practice and noticing his Indianapolis 500 champion’s ring.

Living in Indianapolis, a friend of mine and I go to the stadium and enjoy (the Colts) sometimes, but not this much close. It was a great, great experience. They are incredible athletes. We go for a lot of training but just on different levels. It’s fun to watch and respect to those athletes.” – Sato on watching NFL football and visiting the Cowboys during an OTA practice.

“It’s gone crazy in the correct manner, of course. 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.” – Sato on the reaction in his home country of Japan and its impact on his “With you Japan” charity organization.

“Testing went really well. It was productive. I wouldn’t say it was a perfect test for us. We need to get on a few things. Hopefully by the time we come back here in 10 days, I think we will have a pretty good idea and let’s see how the new track surface develops for us.” – Sato on the Verizon IndyCar Series open test in April on the re-paved and reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“My parents are both from Indiana so Indy (racing) has always been a big event, especially the Indy 500 in our family. Once it came to Texas, we never missed a race.”– Denton Ryan High School faculty member Karen Guenther on her passion for Indy-car racing after Texas Motor Speedway surprised her with a school visit by Indy 500 champ Takuma Sato.

Fast Fact

The 40-year-old Sato became the first Indianapolis 500 winner that was 40 or older since Eddie Cheever’s victory in 1998. Al Unser Sr. holds the distinction of being the oldest winner when he won the 71st Indianapolis 500 on May 24, 1987 at 47 years and 360 days old.

Notebook

Former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Nate Newton, a six-time Pro Bowler, noticed the Indy 500 champion when he arrived and was the first to greet Sato as he headed to watch some practice. … Indianapolis-born Dallas Cowboys guard Zack Martin truly appreciated the visit by Sato growing up around “The Greatest Spectacle In Racing.” After introducing himself to Sato and congratulating him on the win, Martin departed without a signed milk bottle from the champ. When he noticed some of the other players with them, he hustled back for the memento and secured one. … Sato’s win was the third Indy 500 crown in four years for Andretti Autosport following the victories by Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014 and Alexander Rossi last year. Andretti Autosport would like to see that magic continue at Texas Motor Speedway, where the organization has managed just one win. Tony Kanaan won the Bombardier Learjet 500k in June of 2004 for Andretti/Green Racing. … Sato has made eight career starts at Texas Motor Speedway with his best finish being fifth in the first race of the Firestone Twin 275s in 2011. He qualified fourth in last year’s race, which equaled his personal best at Texas that he established in that first twin race in ‘11. … Sato made a motorsports comparison of high regard after touring The Star in Frisco, comparing it to the McLaren Automotive headquarters in Woking, United Kingdom.  

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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