Sato holds off Hunter-Reay to win Portland GP

Takuma Sato
Takuma Sato

Before a big crowd on IndyCar's return to Portland Oregon, Takuma Sato held off a faster Ryan Hunter-Reay to win the Portland GP by 0.6s.

On a race outcome determined by luck – bad luck for Alexander Rossi and Will Power — and good luck for everyone else, Sebastien Bourdais was third ahead of Spencer Pigot and Scott Dixon.

Rossi was mired back in 8th because of the luck of a caution flag on a track where passing is near impossible.

*****

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." — the Bible.

So it's not something new — that the fastest don't always win, and sometimes there is something to be said for pure luck (or divine providence, or the racing gods, Jungian archetype, whatever)…

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]Trouble was expected at the start of the race, and they got it — albeit it in turn 2 instead of turn 1. Zach Veech bumped James Hinchcliffe into the rumble strips, causing Hinch to then careen back over the narrow track. Sebastien Bourdais punted Hinch, and from that time, it was mostly a cloud of dust. We do know that Graham Rahal hit Marco Andretti and pushed him over top of Hinchcliffe, with Marco ending up on his head. Also collected was Ed Jones, and more importantly, Scott Dixon.

At the time, Will Power was in the lead, and it looked for all the world like the points championship had taken a big turn. But remarkably, as the dust cleared, Dixon pulled out of the carnage, and even more of a miracle, his car was almost undamaged. He was the lucky one — Andretti and Jones were done. Hinchcliffe came back 19 laps down, and Rahal ran a couple of laps just to gain some spots/ Andretti finished 25th, Jones 24th, Rahal 23rd, and Hinchcliffe 22nd. Dixon and Bourdais continued on, both restarting at the back of the field.

Marco Andretti flips
Marco Andretti flips

The one that started it all – Zach Veech — Did a bit better. He lead a few laps, but finally the damage to his car was too much to overcome. Veech ended up 19th after a long pit stop that included duck tape and a sawzall.

The green flag flew again at lap 8, and just when the Penske people were thinking "Championship!" with Will Power, the racing gods struck again. Power started in the lead, but in lap 7 he slowed dramatically and fell to 8th place. The problem was traced to a faulty first gear, so Power soldiered on making the best of the remaining gears. However, gearboxes don't like big horsepower starting out in second gear, nor do they like fine metal bits floating around in the oil. On lap 44 Power plowed into the tires, unable to shift at all, and the Penske people changed gear clusters during the pit stop. Power finished 21st, 7 laps down.

From that point on, Dixon and Bourdais were on a 2-stop strategy. Not that they didn't make 3 stops, but the cautions that later came favored those on this strategy. For instance, Dixon had a drive-thru penalty around lap 40 (speeding during his pit stop on lap 39) but was saved from going a lap down by — you got it — Power's caution. Luck, racing gods, when it's your turn… Yup.

Top-3
Top-3

From this point on, passing was difficult. Dirt, dust, tire rubber and the current aero kit all contributed to make this an F1-style strategy race. The lineup for the green — Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato, Bourdais, Dixon, Spencer Pigot, Simon Pagenaud, Carlos Munoz, Santino Ferrucci, Pietro Fittipaldi and Charlie Kimball — all represented lucky fuel strategies more than on-track speed.

Another caution fell on lap 76 when Santino Ferrucci lost power and needed a tow-in. Fortunately, pretty much everyone not named Max Chilton had ducked into the pits for their last stop in anticipation of the yellow, including Scott Dixon. Max lead the field on restart, followed by Sato, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais (with 166 seconds of push-to-pass!!), Dixon, Pigot, Pagenaud, Kimball, Fittipaldi, and Newgarden. Alexander Rossi was 11th at the restart, and got up to 8th, but other than that, the order for the finish was pretty much set when Max pitted. Hunter-Reay was given the green light to chase Sato with 3 laps to go, and Bourdais used up his P2P, but the finishing order didn't budge.

"It was a huge day for the team, and (it) feels like a win for us," Dixon said. "The point (separation), whatever it is, is not a huge amount."

Dixon couldn't explain how his car wasn't damaged in the five-car pileup.

"I couldn't see anything once I got off in the dirt," he said. "There was just dust everywhere. Then I kept getting hit and hit (by flying debris) and I thought, 'Oh, this isn't going to be good.' Luckily, we were able to keep the PNC Bank car running, back up from the incident and continue.

"What a crazy day."

Rossi, who went with the expected three-stop fuel strategy Sunday, led a race-high 32 laps in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda but ended up on the wrong side of the caution flags.

"It's one of those days; we had a fast car," Rossi said. "Our tire strategy was going to plan and everything was good until the yellow came on Lap 56 (when Andretti Autosport teammate Veach spun off course). It hurts a lot and hopefully it's not something that costs us the championship.

"We just have to rebound and move on from it and know that it's something that's out of our control. Now it's time to refocus and be ready to attack (at) Sonoma."

One last note — Simon Pagenaud, whose woes have spilled much ink and many electrons, was the top-finishing of Team Penske with his 6th place finish.

Quotes

Newgarden and Rossi work thru traffic. Both drivers were screwed by the untimely yellow
Newgarden and Rossi work thru traffic. Both drivers were screwed by the untimely yellow

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a tough day. I don't know what else to say. We led some laps and I think we had a Verizon Chevrolet that was good enough to win it. It just didn't fall our way. You can't predict these INDYCAR races. I wish we could get Lady Luck on our side one of these days. It just seems to walk away from us as of late. (Scott) Dixon – he was able to take advantage of it today. Those guys are having a great year and luck falls on their side. Now, we will just go and try and win the season finale and do what we can. I don't think we have much of a shot at the championship. We've given it a good effort here at Team Penske and you can't ask much more out of the team."

MATHEUS "MATT" LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Another tough race for the ABC Supply car. Today, the first two stints were pretty good for us. I think we had the pace since the beginning and I think we could have finished in the top 10 for the first time this season, but the yellow came out at the wrong time for us, so we had to change strategy. It kind of screwed us a little bit. I think the most important thing is that we managed to develop and improve our road course car and I'm looking forward to Sonoma now. I think we did a great job here as a team. Each time we are on the track, we are just getting closer to the other teams, getting a little bit faster. We just have to keep working hard and I think our time is going to come sooner than we thought. Good job for Tony (Kanaan), too. I think we still need to find some pace, but we are going to get there eventually."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Electronics SPM Honda): "Obviously a pretty disappointing day after a promising start. It was a kind of classic first lap deal – Zach (Veach) didn't leave me enough room on the inside of Turn 3 there and we got forced on to a pretty big curb. It kicked the car sideways and I'm obviously sorry for the chain reaction it set off and ruined a lot of guys days. Ultimately that's racing. That's not what we want and I'm glad everyone's OK. Tough break for the crew, the Arrow Electronics car was really good on Saturday and I think we were going to have good pace in the race, but these things happen. We'll put our heads down, regroup and try to end the season strong in Sonoma."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 6 Lucas Oil SPM Honda): "Great to finish the weekend without any mistakes, bringing home the Lucas Oil car in one piece. I think we deserved to finish a little more in the front. The yellow in the middle of the race when we had blacks (Firestone primary tires) didn't help us a lot. The restart also didn't help us… I was on blacks, everyone else was on reds (Firestone alternate tires). During the race, our car was great – we had the fastest lap time of the race. I obviously wanted more, but we'll see how it goes in Sonoma. Hopefully, we'll be even better."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It was a huge day for the team today and feels like a win for us. The points, whatever it is, is not a huge amount. I couldn't see anything once I got off in the dirt at the start, it was just dust everywhere. Then I kept getting hit and hit and thought, 'Oh, this isn't going to be good.' Luckily, we were able to keep the PNC Bank car running, back up from the incident and continue. What a crazy day."

ED JONES (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "It looked like (Zach) Veach and (James) Hinchcliffe were side-by-side going into Turn 2 and Veach just turned right into him like he wasn't there. He didn't give any room and it caused a huge shunt. I'm OK, but really disappointed for the NTT DATA car. I had someone fly over my head and they maybe even nicked my helmet. I'm just glad Marco Andretti was OK and no one got hurt in all that. We had a strong car yesterday and hoped we could have been up there in the race today."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "I think on the warm-up lap before the green, something happened to the gearbox. It jumped to neutral, I went into emergency mode and made it go into gear and thought, 'OK, that's all right.' Then, coming out of the hairpin on the first restart, it popped into neutral again and everyone behind me went past. Then, I realized I couldn't use first gear. We were on a reasonable strategy and I made a mistake trying to keep (Matheus) Leist behind me. Then, the gearbox completely went. I'm not sure the gearbox would have made it the whole race, anyway. But man, it's a tough sport. It's too bad because it was actually going to be a reasonable day. We were on a path for two stops, but that's racing. Now, we just go to Sonoma, have fun and win. And hopefully, have a good day, have a good finish to the year."

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "Some good points today in Portland. Apparently, we had (an air) gun issue during our pit stops that cost us time on the last two stops. I don't think we had the pace that guys in front of us had, but we managed to make some good passes, save fuel whenever we had to save fuel and almost got a top 10. After starting at the back of the pack, we'll take it."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): "I couldn't see anything in front of me. Obviously, I'm disappointed for One Cure. We were hoping for a strong day. I don't know what happened in front of us, but it was a cluster. I couldn't see anything and I had nowhere to go. We made it through Turn 1 and 2 and I thought 'Hey, clear sailing here' and then bam. From what I hear, it sounds like (Zach) Veach just put Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) up on the curb, which is pretty unfair. As you can see Dixie (Scott Dixon) doing behind us, you can run two-wide through there no problem. I'm disappointed. A lot of guys were driving aggressively, which is OK, but we've got to give each other room."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 Gorilla Automotive Products Honda): "It's been a roller coaster ride all weekend for the No. 18 Gorilla Automotive Products – Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan team. We qualified really well after recovering from probably one of the biggest hits I have ever had on a road course. Three hours after the crash, the car is back together and I put it there near the top in qualifying. So, I start fourth, get swallowed up in the incident at the start, cycled to the back, then cycle to the front and finish third. These races are never over. I can't thank my crew enough for what they have done this weekend. Just an amazing effort from the whole team. I am super proud and thanks to Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) for putting all this together."

PIETRO FITTIPALDI (No. 19 Paysafe Honda): "The race went really well. The car was very fast all throughout the weekend in practice and qualifying, so we knew we had the pace. It's a tough place to pass here, so coming into the race, we knew it was going to be about strategy and being consistent and trying to get clean air to get track position, and that's what we did. My whole No. 19 Paysafe Dale Coyne Racing crew did an amazing job on the pit stops and my engineer Mike Cannon did a great job calling the strategy. I'm really happy with the result. I had issues getting up to speed quickly on the restarts because I couldn't get the brakes hot enough, so unfortunately, I lost some positions there. I also had no more overtake at the end, so I really had to stand my ground and we did that. I'm really happy with today's result."

JORDAN KING (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "The race got off to a really solid start. I was overtaking people, shifting shapes, really cracking on. I had made it all the way up to P3 behind Alexander Rossi and was having good fun racing with him. Then the yellow came out and turned everything around. It was really unlucky timing, as we were heading for a strong result. Fortunately, we've got Sonoma in two weeks' time, so I'm looking forward to getting back in the car."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "I'm really happy to end up fourth with the Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet team. The start was kind of crazy. From starting 17th, I found myself up to 8th after Turn 1. That was a welcome surprise. After that, we had a few good stints and were able to pick off a few guys here and there, then the yellows fell in our favor. Right from the get-go, even on blacks (Firestone primary tires), the car felt good. We had a lot of reds (Firestone alternate tires) saved up and were able to put them to good use."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): "I think it was a fantastic recovery from the whole No. 22 Menards Chevrolet team. It was phenomenal, the strategy that we adopted. We got a little bit lucky with some yellows (flags), too, but before the yellows we came to the eighth position from 22nd, so really good job by all my guys. We still have some progress to make on the car, but overall, from a tough qualifying day yesterday, we recovered really well and that's what racing is about."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet): "This Carlin team just doesn't have any give up in them – they don't know the meaning of the words. I'm proud of these guys, they just stayed with it all day. They worked the fuel strategy, gave me the fuel numbers and lap times that I needed and we were able to get it with the car. We made a pretty significant change to the No. 23 Tresiba Chevrolet overnight and it really helped our pace throughout the race. I just can't stress how proud I am of these guys. Yesterday was pretty frustrating and disheartening, but they didn't let it slow them down today. We had great pit stops and a great strategy, so all I really had to do was drive it into the top 10."

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Group 1001 Honda): "It was a really tough race. We made contact on the start as we made our way up to fourth and that damaged our undertray quite a bit. Because of that, we were running around with a few hundred pounds less downforce and that made the car very difficult to drive. We were trying to make up for that damage and just pushed a little too hard and made a mistake and that ended our race putting us a lap down. I'm frustrated in myself – I should've been a little more patient in what we had."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda): "It's one of those days. We had a fast car. The NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was really quick out front and we were able to build a seven-second gap. Our tire strategy was going to plan and everything was good until the yellow (flag) came on Lap 56. It hurts a lot, and hopefully, it's not something that costs us the championship. We just have to rebound and move on from it and know that it's something that's out of our control. Now, it's time to refocus and be ready to attack for Sonoma."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We gave that one away. The DHL car was the car to beat today. We had the right fuel, but we had some miscommunication on pit lane. I was saving fuel as Takuma (Sato) came out of the pit lane and so I didn't attack. That miscommunication probably cost us the race. I'm pretty bummed right now. I know we had a car to win and all day long. I tried really hard to save that fuel and made the fuel mileage the stand was requesting, but couldn't pay off for it in the end."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda):
"This is big. Fantastic weekend. Obviously, with the couple of hard, physical weekends, especially at St. Louis (Gateway), we did save fuel and it didn't work, but you have to keep on going and this time I think the fuel strategy worked really well. Most importantly, the No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic car had pace so I could commit. Looking at the fans here in Portland, so enthusiastic, I think this is one of the most beautiful days in my life again."

ALFONSO CELIS JR. (No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet): "The main goal was to finish and we completed that today. We had a good strategy going into the race. In the beginning, I battled some issues with my radio, but I was able to fix it. I think I was also pushed out wide a couple of times, so we lost some positions there. Overall, I am happy with finishing on the lead lap. I want to thank the Juncos Racing crew for all of their hard work and my family and friends for being here to support me."

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 39 Cly-Del Honda):
"The No. 39 Cly-Del Manufacturing car was on rails today. We lost a couple of positions at the start because I had to shortcut the chicane, but we made the positions back on the first stint of red (flag conditions). We had a long stint and had really good pace. On my third stint, we went back out on reds (Firestone alternate tires) and we moved up the field again and were fighting for a spot in the top five. However, that's when we had a fuel system issue that cost us a possible top-10 finish, if not better. I feel bad for the guys, but they did an amazing job throughout the whole weekend and I can't ask for more. We'll come back stronger in Sonoma."

MAX CHILTON (No. 59 Gallagher Chevrolet): "All in all, it was a really enjoyable day. We were racing hard and we were racing good guys. We had a great start at the green flag, great restarts and we led that last restart well. We were able to keep Josef (Newgarden) and (Alexander) Rossi behind us when they didn't need to be fuel saving, so we had the pace. Strategy went our way at times, but when it really counted, it just went completely against us. We were on for a top-seven finish all day and we weren't up there just by luck. Unfortunately, with how the strategy worked out and how the yellows fell, it just wasn't in the cards for us, but that's racing."

JACK HARVEY (No. 60 AutoNation SiriusXM MSR with SPM Honda): "The beginning of the race went really well and we cycled out well after that first restart. Unfortunately, after that, we caught every yellow at the wrong moment. This weekend we made so much good progress, it's a bit disappointing how the race played out. During the first stage of the race, we were legitimately running top six and holding it, but then the end result ends up not showing it. Hopefully, we can take a few days to reset and take the positives from this weekend and bring them to Sonoma."

GABBY CHAVES (No. 88 Harding Group Chevrolet): "We had a clean race through the start and I managed to pick up a bunch of positions, running inside the top 10 for a good part of the day. We struggled a bit on the black (Firestone primary) tires, so we lost a few positions on track when we were running our stint. We still managed to be in a good contention for a top-10 finish. On the last restart, I had a good run on TK (Tony Kanaan), he just didn't give me any room and I ended up in the grass while trying to defend the next position. After that, I had to give up that position, as well. We have been improving the car all weekend and all year, so although 13th is not fantastic, it shows progression, which is good."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 MilitaryToMotosports.com / Curb Honda): "I'm really lucky that when (I was upside down), nobody else hit me. That would've been bad, but it looked like the seas were about to part for me. As soon as I backed off for Hinch's (James Hinchcliffe) spin, I think Graham (Rahal) got into the back of me – at least that's what he and I discussed. (Rahal) didn't see Hinch spin and I did, so when I backed off, he got into me. I almost thought we were going to make it through Portland Turn 1 – which we did. It was Turn 2 that got us, though."

Results

Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Led ST Engine Pts Team
1 30 Takuma Sato 105 0.0000s 0.0000s 25 20 Honda 19 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
2 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 105 0.6084 0.6084 19 5 Honda 462 Andretti Autosport
3 18 Sebastien Bourdais 105 1.8266 1.2182 0 4 Honda 369 Dale Coyne Racing with VS
4 21 Spencer Pigot 105 4.5557 2.7291 0 17 Chevy 13 Ed Carpenter Racing
5 9 Scott Dixon 105 5.3215 0.7658 0 11 Honda 598 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
6 22 Simon Pagenaud 105 11.4605 6.1390 22 Chevy 14 Team Penske
7 23 Charlie Kimball 105 12.0057 0.5452 0 25 Chevy 15 Carlin
8 27 Alexander Rossi 105 13.3769 1.3712 32 3 Honda 569 Andretti Autosport
9 19 Pietro Fittipaldi 105 18.3753 4.9984 0 16 Honda 63 Dale Coyne Racing
10 1 Josef Newgarden 105 19.8044 1.4291 8 2 Chevy 511 Team Penske
11 14 Tony Kanaan 105 22.1362 2.3318 0 24 Chevy 8 AJ Foyt Enterprises
12 6 Carlos Munoz 105 22.7069 0.5707 0 14 Honda 71 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
13 88 Gabby Chaves 105 23.7138 1.0069 0 21 Chevy 23 Harding Racing
14 4 Matheus Leist 105 29.7958 6.0820 0 19 Chevy 2 AJ Foyt Enterprises
15 20 Jordan King 105 32.1352 2.3394 0 12 Chevy 141 Ed Carpenter Racing
16 60 Jack Harvey 105 32.4191 0.2839 0 13 Honda 77 Meyer Shank Racing with SPM
17 32 Alfonso Celis Jr 105 48.8038 16.3847 0 23 Chevy 20 Juncos Racing
18 59 Max Chilton 105 55.2123 6.4085 10 15 Chevy 205 Carlin
19 26 Zach Veach 104 1 LAPS 41.8151 0 6 Honda 281 Andretti Autosport
20 39 Santino Ferrucci 101 4 LAPS 2 LAPS 0 18 Honda 29 Dale Coyne Racing
21 12 Will Power 98 7 LAPS 3 LAPS 11 1 Chevy 511 Team Penske
22 5 James Hinchcliffe 76 22 LAPS 15 LAPS 0 7 Honda 361 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
23 15 Graham Rahal 4 72 LAPS 53 LAPS 0 10 Honda 378 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
24 10 Ed Jones 0.9205 0.1834 0 8 Honda 303 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams
25 98 Marco Andretti 1.0311 0.1106 0 9 Honda 332 Andretti Herta Autosport with CA

Race Statistics

Winner's average speed: 102.971 mph

Time of Race: 2:00:09.7537

Margin of victory: 0.6084 of a second

Cautions: 4 for 18 laps

Lead changes: 9 among 6 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Power, Will 1 – 7

Rossi, Alexander 8 – 27

Hunter-Reay, Ryan 28 – 32

Power, Will 33 – 36

Rossi, Alexander 37 – 48

Newgarden, Josef 49 – 56

Hunter-Reay, Ryan 57 – 70

Sato, Takuma 71 – 74

Chilton, Max 75 – 84

Sato, Takuma 85 – 105

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 598, Rossi 569, Newgarden 511, Power 511, Hunter-Reay 462, Pagenaud 428, Wickens 391, Rahal 378, Bourdais 369, Hinchcliffe 361.

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