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IndyCar drivers rally behind Takuma Sato after Denver Post sports writer's racist tweet


Takuma Sato, the first Japanese Indy 500 winner, and other IndyCar drivers responded Thursday to a racist tweet from a Denver Post sports writer.
Before Takuma Sato moves around the 14-turn temporary street course on Belle Isle for this week’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 winner will try to move past a tweet that cost Denver Post sports writer Terry Frei his job.
Sato on Sunday became the first Japanese driver to win the Indy 500.
Frei tweeted: “Nothing specifically personal, but I am very uncomfortable with a Japanese driver winning the Indianapolis 500 during Memorial Day weekend.”
Frei later tweeted a lengthy apology that began: “I fouled up. I’ m sorry. I shouldn’ t have said what I said when I said it. I should have known better and I regret it.”
The Post apologized for the tweet sent by Frei and announced Monday that Frei no longer was an employee.
“Obviously unfortunate for him to lost a job, ” Sato said. “It’s sad. Obviously, I have to respect the Denver Post’s decision and certainly I’ m very appreciative of the public response.”
Sato said the support he received from people in light of the tweet made it “a positive, ” and he called the Indy 500 victory “a significant moment in my life.”
He hopes the win inspires people in Japan and gives them hope.
“Japan has been suffering from the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This kind of news is definitely in support of all of them, ” said Sato, who said it wasn’t easy to drive after the disasters.
“I was questioning myself, ‘Why am I racing in here?’ There’s still 250,000 people living in temporary housing today. I’ m certainly happy to deliver great news to Japan.”
Indy drivers in Detroit praised Sato and were upset when they heard about the tweet. Helio Castroneves, a three-time Indy 500 winner who finished second to Sato on Sunday, called the tweet “an immature, dumb moment.”
“Trying to make a big splash, which cost him his job, ” Castroneves said. “Indianapolis – it’s not about (being) political. It’s about bringing the best drivers in the world.”
Castroneves echoed the sentiment of other Penske drivers about how much respect Sato has in the garage area. Simon Pagenaud, the 2016 IndyCar champion, called him “a tremendous racer” who has supported “the sport forever.”
“Some people are more evolved than others, ” Pagenaud said. “Obviously, I was shocked by the reaction, especially coming from a journalist. You would expect a journalist to be more open minded than most and step back on what he writers. It’s a real shame. Whatever the past is, you have to move on and society has to improve and it did.”
Pagenaud, a Frenchman, said he’s never had a similar experience while racing in the U. S., and Tony Kanaan, who is from Brazil, said there are “enough problems in the world” that it isn’ t worth acknowledging Frei’s views.
“Apparently he deleted it, ” Kanaan said. “It’s small-minded people, man. The world doesn’ t need people like that.”
Detroit Grand Prix chairman Bud Denker called the tweet “unfortunate, ” but noted how Sato’s Indy 500 victory could help the series.
“You’re going to see a lot more journalists over here this weekend at Belle Isle than you had in the past from Japan, ” Denker said. “A lot more.”
Castroneves added: “Imagine for the companies in Japan. We have a sponsor, Hitachi. I think this is fantastic. They’ re now going to be more excited to be in America, funding with teams or giving America jobs. As I said, it’s great for everyone. Obviously, it would be better for us to be winning.
“But what Takuma Sato did, it’s going to actually go and benefit a lot of people.”

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