IndyCar: Sato beats Carpenter at the line
From zero to hero. That was the story of Takuma Sato who was blamed for a 5-car first lap accident last weekend in the Pocono 500, turned it all around this weekend to win the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway in a near photo finish.
Ed Carpenter almost caught Sato at the line but came up short by 0.0399s.
Tony Kanaan got AJ Foyt Racing's first podium position for in a long time.
Rookie Santino Ferrucci, who led the most laps, came home 4th with Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top-5.
Rossi would have an interesting night. The Andretti cars ran strong at times, but both the settings and strategies have been off all weekend. Shortly before the National Anthem, Rossi's crew replaced the gear cluster while on the starting grid, leading to quite a few crew members from other teams looking over their shoulder. Rossi was in the top five towards the end, but a pit strategy that didn't line up with the yellow flags relegated him to a disappointing 13th place when he was forced to stop for fuel towards the end of the race.
Likewise, Hunter-Reay ended up 8th after running mid-pack for most of the race. James Hinchcliffe actually lead a few laps before fading at the end and finishing 12th.
The race resumed and settled into something of a parade for the next 50 or so laps. Sebastien Bourdais, the day before, commented on how the first tire run would be rough, and it lived up to expectations. Not only did the prior NASCAR race lay down its rubber, but it also featured 4 blown engines (in a field of 17!) so quite a bit of oil dry was down. By the end of the stint everyone's tires were vibrating badly and fighting the drivers on every turn.
The pit stops were almost done Will Power went into the wall on his pit-out lap on lap 54. This would be a theme for the rest of the night -- drivers would leave the pit, get into the marbles, and head straight to the wall. "It was so much like ice" he later commented. Power finished the night dead last.
The green flag flew again on lap 64 with James Hinchcliffe in the lead. James lead 20 laps until Santino Ferrucci took control on lap 83. From that point on, for much of the night, Dale Coyne Racing was the story of the night. For much of the night, Ferrucci and Sebastien Bourdais ran 1-2 on the night, leading at times by over 6 seconds. For this stint Ferrucci was 4/10 of a second per lap faster than anyone in the rest of the field.
The monotony of the Coyne domination (can you believe I just wrote that?) was broken up by drama in the Dixon pits. Somewhere along the line Scott Dixon's radiator sprang a leak, relegating him to a 20th place position on the night, and dealing him a real blow to his championship hopes.
The show ran on until around lap 115 when pit stops started again. As an "accident" of pit strategy, Marco Andretti went to the lead, and actually lead when the caution flew on lap 121 as Ericsson hit the wall exiting the pits. (Did I say there was a theme to the pit out lap?). Marco managed to lead 4 laps, and finished 10th. Ericsson continued on and finished 17th.
The green flag flew again on 129, and only ran 4 laps before Spencer Pigot found the wall in turn 4 as well (same marbles, same corner). Pigot's miserable weekend ended with a 21st place finish as Scott Dixon came out to move ahead one position.
Once again, the race continued with Ferrucci and Sebastien Bourdais running 1-2. Running in a solid top 5 was Conor Daly. who had taken his Carlin entry through the field with some bold driving. Sadly, on lap 186 a long pit stop put him back into the field, but he still managed a 6th place on the night.
Once again, tires started to vibrate and wear out. And once again, a highly skilled driver managed to find the marbles in turn 4 and hit the wall on pit-out. Only this time it was Bourdais, and sadly, the spell that gave us Coyne's magical night was broken on lap 192. "I threw it away" lamented Seb in interviews.
This managed to scramble the pit stops. When the dust settled, Takuma Sato was in the lead, followed by Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter. Carpenter got past TK on lap 245, and with Taku holding off (barely) a hard-charging Ed by 4/100ths of a second, that's how it ended. In a bid for third, Ferrucci almost spun his car ("I had to try" he said, admitting his mistake) nearly taking out Josef Newgarden in 5th. Ferrucci finished 4th, while Noogie limped home to finish 7th.
Conor Daly (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet) gave his team its best finish of the season in sixth place.
The NTT IndyCar Series heads to Portland, Ore., for next Sunday's Grand Prix of Portland. Live race coverage on NBC begins at 3 p.m. ET (noon PT local) with the green flag at approximately 3:45 p.m. Live radio broadcasts will be available on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (XM 209, Sirius 98, Internet/App 970).
1st – TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “This year the cheering, (the fans) screaming my name so much. I just can't find the words to thank you for all the support. It was special, particularly like you said, after the difficult circumstances, to come here, qualify strong, which I'm really proud of the team. A difficult start. I was sandwiched, then go backwards. It was difficult to get away the first stint. Head down, did our job, believe in ourselves, take the moment for the chance to come back. We came back. I think this is the whole effort of the team. They are completely behind me. So happy to bring the car to the win for them. I'm very, very happy.”
2nd – ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “Even just another straightaway, I maybe could have gotten Takuma! We were really good on the long runs tonight. Qualifying so bad didn’t help us. Early in the race, the guys asked me what I needed and I said clear track more than anything. I thought the race was really good and we had made really good adjustments to it. Days like yesterday are really tough and dejecting for the whole team. We kept our heads down and never gave up, came back strong tonight and got a result. This was a great way to finish the year. It would have been a little better if we could have gotten a win, I definitely gave it all I had. It was fun to be back up at the front again.”
3rd – TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Great night. We knew we had a strong car last night. Obviously, we missed in qualifying so I was a little frustrated but once we got to the front the car was fast. We played the strategy right, we got a little bit of luck on our side – finally – and once we got to the front, we showed them that we belong there. It wasn’t like, ‘Ah they got lucky.’ When we restarted, there were over 40 laps to go and nobody could touch us. It was an awesome result for us.”
4th – SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “I had so much fun leading this race. Having open air like that and being able to run to a pace, run your lines and not have to think about it and just enjoy it. But hats off to our crew. We had a race car, a winning race car. It’s just a little bit unfortunate that we got caught by the yellow. Then at the end, I was racing so hard to get back into the top three. I was really trying to bring home some hardware for the boys. Unfortunately, not everything went our way but I’m happy we came home in fourth and picked up some more points in the Rookie of the Year standings and jumped into the top 10 in the overall championship.”
5th – SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “Wow, what a night. That is a race that I am going to be excited to re-watch. Honestly, I really don't know much about what happened because as a driver you are kind of like a horse. You just have to keep going. We had a really good car and after five laps the car was really, really strong. It had a lot of pace and we could really keep it up through the stint. Really, really struggled on restarts. Just no grip. Some of it is me and some of it, I don't know what it is. Certainly some work we need to do. Wow, it was an eventful race. Lots of passing and lots of elbows out, out there and with the strategies, it seemed like it was fun. The fans had a great show tonight.”
6th – CONOR DALY (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “I’m super happy with our result tonight. The No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet was so strong and consistent the entire night. We just kept fine-tuning it and making it even better every time we came into pit lane. Anytime we got in clean air we made progress and we were able to run people down. I really thought we were going to be on the podium tonight and that’s really hard to take. The strategy game of INDYCAR is just crazy and we just got a little bit unlucky, but to be unlucky and finish sixth is pretty awesome. I’m thankful to close out this oval run with Carlin on such a high note and thankful to Gallagher for giving me a chance to show what I could do for their program with Carlin.”
7th – JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet): “For us tonight, our guys did a great job. Our PPG car was fast. We were better in clean air, which was unfortunate because we got stuck in in dirty air more often than not. I think if we were a little bit better in traffic we could have made something happen. But, they did a great job. Great stops. Good calls from everybody. I’m really proud of the team. Now we’ve just got to try and have a couple of better rounds here to finish the season off.”
8th – RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Unfortunately, luck didn’t go our way today. The DHL team had a really good fuel strategy going where we would have been P1 on our strategy, which would have ended up panning out if that second-to-last yellow hadn’t come out. That was the one that really put us in. After saving fuel for so long, I think a top 10 – P8 – is about as good as we could hope for.”
9th – COLTON HERTA (No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda): “Tonight was a bit of a grind all night and I really enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun on those restarts and we passed a lot of cars. There were a million strategies based on how the cautions played out and I think we were on the right one until the final caution came out. The No. 88 Capstone Turbine Honda was able to pass three or four cars on the final restart so we still finished ninth, which is great for the team. It's a shame though because without the final caution we could have finished within the top five. That's short oval racing though, sometimes you get burned with yellows and sometimes you get lucky. Now let's hope we can continue to be quick at Portland."
10th – MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 Oberto Circle K / Curb Honda): “We hung in there and gave ourselves a lot of opportunity on going long and fighting through the vibrations and staying out. We almost bailed a couple times, but just hung tough and got the yellows and put ourselves in a decent position. I felt weak on restarts, which is usually one of my fortes. Not a bad night but I think the potential was a lot better.”
Remainder of Drivers (alphabetical – with finishing position):
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (Finished 19th – No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “The No. 18 SealMaster Honda was really on it tonight. It was a perfect weekend and I just couldn’t quite bring the finish. It’s my fault, for sure. We were doing the job on fuel and we were quick enough early on to stay at the front. I got the car down to the apex and it took off. I didn’t expect it. I wasn’t pushing very hard. We were saving fuel. It was really strange. I just hate it for the team. They did such a good job. We had a podium finish in our hands.”
SCOTT DIXON (Finished 20th – No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s a shame for the PNC Bank No. 9 team. The car was overheating for some reason. I think they saw it starting on Lap 1 and it got progressively worse. We stayed out just until the point the engine would fail and came in to try and diagnose the problem. The guys brought the car in to change the radiator. Great job by the whole team getting it fixed and back out on track. We ran the maximum laps we could for points and pulled in after that. It just wasn’t our day today.”
MARCUS ERICSSON (Finished 16th – No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was like a race with a lot of different faces. First off at the start, I got chopped in Turn 3 and I sort of half-spun the car and managed to stay out of the way of other cars in the wall, so that wasn’t the best start to the race. There was no damage, so we could come in to clean up the grass on the car and get after it again. From then on, we had a really fast car. The Arrow SPM guys did a great job to adjust the car after practice yesterday because we were struggling a bit in traffic yesterday and I think the changes we did for today were really working. The Arrow car was fast out there and we were moving up through the field. Unfortunately on one of the stops, - on the out lap - I had a moment in Turn 3 and made contact with the wall, so that sort of put our day in a bad place and we lost two laps. Still, the guys did a great job to repair the car very quickly. From then on, it was a tough race but again we showed a lot of pace and I don’t think there were a lot of cars out there that were faster than us. It’s a bit like our season: A lot of potential, a lot of pace, but not the results to show for it. Today was disappointing, but we’ll take the positives and move forward."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (Finished 12th – No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “It was an up-and-down weekend for us. Practice one had a lot of problems, so we lost a bunch of track time. Luckily, (teammate) Marcus (Ericsson) had been out here and tested, and we were able to put his setup on our car for qualifying and got the (No.) 5 Arrow car a decent spot for the start of the race. It was a really tough race. Every single set of our tires were vibrating. That first stint, we were actually able to stay out longer and kind of manage our tires a bit better than everyone else. We caught a lucky yellow that cycled us up to the front. From there, we spent the first half of the race just trying to manage our tires as best we could. We weren’t good over short runs, but we were decent over a long run so the early part of the race it was fine. Then, unfortunately, we had like five yellows in a row and with a car that just wasn’t good on a short run, we just kept getting hosed. That last restart, [Ryan] Hunter-Reay hit us pretty hard, put us down into the grass in Turn 1 and bent something in the car, so from there we were just trying to hang on. It’s unfortunate. The Arrow SPM guys deserved better today. They were killer in the pits, we made up spots every time we came into pit lane. Unfortunately, the yellows, and the way the race fell, just didn’t fall in our favor."
CHARLIE KIMBALL (Finished 15th – No. 23 ripKurrent Carlin Chevrolet): “Firstly, a huge congratulations to the entire Carlin team and the 59 team especially. Conor (Daly) drove an awesome race. Every time I saw him during the race he was going by guys on starts and restarts. I can’t give the 23 crew enough credit for the work they did on the No. 23 ripKurrent Carlin Chevrolet last night to get it ready to race tonight. We fought really hard all night and we were able to finally get our lead lap back. We had a little bit of a miscommunication in pit lane that put us a lap down mid-pack, but overall a really fighting night for the ripKurrent car for Carlin.”
MATHEUS LEIST (Finished 17th – No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Tough race for us – we got all the yellows at the wrong time. Nothing worked out today for us, but the good thing is that (teammate) Tony (Kanaan) did an awesome job. He’s probably one of the best oval drivers ever and I’m very proud of him today finishing third. That’s a huge accomplishment for the team after such a difficult year. That was the good side of our race and we’ll celebrate it and then focus on next week at Portland.”
SPENCER PIGOT (Finished 21st – No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “I had a good run coming out of Turn 2. Charlie Kimball had gotten past me but was struggling for momentum. He went to the inside going into Turn 3. I thought I was far enough up alongside him to get some respect and get some space, but he turned in and I was there. It’s an unfortunate end to the day; I feel bad for all of the guys. I thought we had a pretty good car and were making good gains towards the front of the field.”
WILL POWER (Finished 22nd – No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “Yeah, the car was great. The car was really good. I came out on cold tires and just got a little bit out of the groove. And man, it’s like ice. There are so many marbles because they brought the new tire that really sheds the rubber. And, that was going to happen in the race, no matter what. But I guess it’s my bad for getting up there. You just can’t put an inch on that stuff. Man, you just go straight. It’s just ridiculous. It sucks for the guys. We had such a good car. They had to hang out all day. We had a good chance.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (Finished 18th – No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): ““I’m disappointed. Actually, the car wasn’t that bad. We just had a couple of sets of tires that vibrated unbelievably bad. It’s frustrating. As a team we need to get a little bit of luck on our side. The guys are working incredibly hard, but we’re not seeing the fruits of our labor and it’s disappointing. I feel bad for them. Congrats to (teammate) Takuma (Sato) and the No. 30 guys on their win.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST (Finished 11th – No. 10 Monster Energy Honda): “I think we started out with good track position, but we were pretty average overall in the Monster Energy Honda. We were trying to save some fuel and then we went another route and I just think it was just one of those nights. We dropped down to around P13, but made our way back up a bit. It was a good effort from the team. We’ll still give it our best on the ovals and I’m confident we’ll get there. This week we got to run all the laps and at least we got that valuable experience under our belts.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI (Finished 13th – No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): “I think we had the car and we drove it up to P3 on pace. It’s just the way the series works and the way the yellows fall sometimes. It can be frustrating. (Josef Newgarden) spins and is unaffected; crashes in Toronto and is unaffected. It’s just the way it goes. I think the whole (No.) 27 NAPA Andretti Honda team did a really good job overnight, putting together a fast race car. We were able to get from 11th to third and were content running up there and could run the same pace, if not quicker, than Josef. It’s unfortunate the way it goes down, the series is really difficult. But we’ve got two more to go and we’ll just keep our head down and try to win races.”
ZACH VEACH (Finished 14th – No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “Honestly, we were on the wrong end of a bad yellow all night. You never want the yellow to come out after you pit because then you get trapped a lap down. Literally, we pitted three times and the yellow came out within three laps each time. We just kept getting trapped a lap down, which wasn’t our fault. We had a car that was good enough to be in the top 10, we paced the race leader, we ran away from the race leader at one point – but was a lap down while doing it. The pace was there, but lady luck wasn’t.”
Winner's average speed: 136.874 mph
Time of Race: 2:15:53.4687
Margin of victory: 0.0399 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 49 laps
Lead changes: 13 among 11 drivers
Newgarden, Josef 1 - 50
Power, Will 51
Ferrucci, Santino 52
Hinchcliffe, James 53
Herta, Colton 54 - 63
Hinchcliffe, James 64 - 82
Ferrucci, Santino 83 - 114
Bourdais, Sebastien 115
Rosenqvist, Felix 116
Ericsson, Marcus 117 - 118
Daly, Conor 119
Andretti, Marco 120 - 123
Ferrucci, Santino 124 - 187
Sato, Takuma 188 - 248
NTT IndyCar Series point standings: Newgarden 563, Pagenaud 525, Rossi 517, Dixon 493, Power 416, Sato 382, Hunter-Reay 368, Rahal 346, Ferrucci 326, Rosenqvist 324.
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