Putting Sato's brain-fade into perspective
The Pocono INDYCAR 400 may be deemed a resounding success. After 24 years, the return of the IZOD IndyCar Series to Pocono Raceway was enjoyed as much by the drivers as it was by the fans, who came out to see the Indy cars racing on The Tricky Tri-Oval at 220 mph.
Staring seventh in the 24-car field, Takuma Sato drove the ABC Supply Honda into the top five by lap six of the 160-lap event. He ran there until the first round of pit stops on lap 31 wherein the crew turned in a quick stop which included a change to the setting on the rear wing.
In the next stint Sato climbed to third behind leader Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay and ran there for half the stint before slower traffic cost him a position. Sato pitted again on lap 61 but struck Ryan Hunter-Reay as the two of them came down pit lane.
As Sato explained, “I misjudged it, just too fast… I lost the back end and slid into Ryan. Extremely sorry to Andretti Autosport , Ryan Hunter-Reay and his crew as well as my crew, they prepared great cars and it’s all my fault.”
The miscue sent Hunter-Reay’s car into the outer pit wall but Sato’s car sustained the heavier damage. The ABC crew attempted to fix the car but the laps remaining and the repairs needed, it wasn’t feasible.
Scott Dixon won the race and was followed by teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti. Rounding out the top five were Will Power and Josef Newgarden.
To put Sato’s accident into perspective, following is the on-air exchange between Hunter-Reay’s teammate James Hinchcliffe (who was out after a lap one accident) and Eddie Cheever, commentator for ABC-TV.
James Hinchcliffe: “Coming off of turn 3 and getting the thing slowed down to 60 miles an hour is incredibly difficult, you’ve got to try to keep it tight, there’s not a lot of banking to help you out, you’re really conscious of the guys behind you [who are still running at speed] and you obviously aren’t using the brakes around here and they’re cold and these things can happen.”
Eddie Cheever: “And that’s one of those places where you have to gain as much time as you can as leaving the pits, you can’t just lollygag around and slow down at a gentlemanly pace, can you?”
James Hinchcliffe: “No, you’re exactly right. With the entry being so wide and open like that, there is a lot of time to be made and lost there. Takuma was going for it. Unfortunately in practice we don’t get a lot of opportunity to try those really hot entries, the teams don’t like it, it wears on the brakes a bit, and sometimes you end up doing a little bit of learning in the race itself, which is the worst time and unfortunately, it caught Takuma out this time.”
Eddie Cheever “But you have no choice do you? You always have to risk everything you can as much as you can.”
James Hinchcliffe: “No attack, no chance.”