Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday. It was a great moment for Sato and a historic one for racing.
It was also, unfortunately, a moment for ignorance.
After Sato won, Denver Post reporter Terry Frei tweeted, “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend.”
Frei was taken to task for his tweet and penned a long apology. In the end, though, he was fired.
“Well, unfortunately one writer has been fired by doing this, so I really respect the Denver Post (for its) decision,” the 40-year-old Sato said in studio on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “There’s nothing personal against (him), but I think the public reaction (was) really (supportive) for (me and against his) inappropriate suggestion. That is a positive. So, yes, one guy maybe made a mistake or maybe (thought) differently. It was very unfortunate.”
Sato learned of the tweet from his manager.
“I (had) no idea,” Sato said. “I just knew this morning by my manager. “I had no idea.”
Sato won the Indy 500 in thrilling fashion, holding off Helio Castroneves for his second career IndyCar Series victory. Only two Americans finished in the top eight on Sunday, with drivers from Brazil and Colombia, among other countries, finishing in the top 10. Russia’s Mikhail Aleshin and France’s Simon Pagenaud finished 13th and 14th, respectively.
“It is international,” Sato said. “The IndyCar Series is primarily North American cities, but it used to be they went to Brazil and Japan, Australia, and Canada, of course. It’s become an international sport.”
Ultimately, Frei’s tweet won’t damper Sato’s elation. He called his post-race milk celebration “fantastic.”
“I wanted to drink everything, but it was probably a gallon or something,” he said, laughing. “It was nice, chilled 2-percent milk, which I take every single morning with the Cheerios. But I just wanted to share this celebration (with) everyone.”