MADISON, IL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato went from zero to hero in less than a week on the NTT IndyCar Series circuit.
Sato won Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, one week after fellow IndyCar drivers, fan and media blamed Sato for a multi-car crash on lap one at Pocono Raceway.
Sato started fifth on the grid and on the first lap in turn 1 had contact with another car and fell to last place but never gave up and rallied to a 0.0399-second victory over owner/driver Ed Carpenter.
“A difficult start,” said Sato. “I was sandwiched, then go backwards.”
Sato called the victory the most satisfying win of his career, next to the 2017 Indianapolis 500 win.
“This win is so special,” said Sato. “Beside Indy 500, nothing like it. Last week, it was very difficult to judge. A lot of people judged from only TV, one angle. It looked like I turned into Alex, which wasn’t true. The team got logging system, onboard footage, that shows very clear evidence I wasn’t move. I hold my line, I drove straight.”
The RLL team stood behind the veteran driver in the week between Pocono and Gateway, going as far as issuing a statement of support after all of the backlash. Sato was glad his team had his back and he paid them back with a victory.
“It is just unbelievable support from the team,” said Sato. “I’m so happy. So proud to be a part of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Some people say they never seen do that kind of statement.”
Carpenter rebounded from a less than stellar qualifying effort to needing a couple of hundred feet to win.
“Even just another straightaway, I maybe could have gotten Takuma,” said Carpenter, who started 17th. “We were really good on the long runs. We kept our heads down and never gave up.”
AJ Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan, who started 20th, rounded out the podium with a third-place finish.
“We knew we had a strong car,” said Kanaan. “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 the that we belong there.”
Points-leader Josef Newgarden finished seventh but his closest pursuer, Alexander Rossi, finished 13th allowing fifth-place finisher Simon Pagenaud to leapfrog Rossi in the Championship standings. Newgarden leads Pagenaud by 38-points going into the next weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland.
Chip Ganassi’s cars fast as practice opens for the Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing (CGR) is off to a quick start in preparations for the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge. Four of the five CGR Honda’s were in the Top 6 of the speed chart following Tuesday’s opening practice for ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’, and all five were in the Top 10.
Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion Scott Dixon led the CGR squad posting a fast lap of 227.768 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda. Right behind Dixon in third was Indianapolis 500 rookie Jimmie Johnson, who’s fast lap was 227.722 in the No. 48 Carvana Honda.
“All in all, a really good day” said Johnson. “I feel like where we ended in this session gives me a lot of confidence for working forward. It’s just trying to work through extremes for me. What is a low trim setting? What’s a high trim setting? What’s mechanically tight? What’s mechanically free? Just trying to work through some of those big-picture things.”
Marcus Ericsson was fourth at 227.094 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate CGR Honda.
“I think it was a very positive day for me and for the team,” said Ericsson. “We rolled off (the truck) with really good cars again and sort of continued our work that we did at the open test a few weeks ago. Really, really happy with our progress and where our car is for the moment, a positive first day.”
Defending Series Champion Alex Palou was next on the charts, ending up sixth at 226.973 in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda.
“Felt really good to be honest,” said Palou. “The car is super-fast. We were just going through the plan. I think all the Chip Ganassi Racing cars are super-fast. We’re looking good. A lot of work to do but we’re looking good so far.”
The fifth Ganassi entry, Tony Kanaan, was ninth quickest in the No. 1 American Legion Honda with a fast lap of 226.292.
Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato turned the fastest lap of the day, 228.939, in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing.
“We had a big tow,” Sato said. “In Happy Hour, if you have new tires, I think you can do that. I’m very happy with the 51 car. Dale Coyne Racing did a good job.”
Practice resumes from Noon-to-6 p.m. (ET) Wednesday (live on Peacock Premium), with PPG Presents Armed Forces Qualifying this Saturday and Sunday. The 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge is scheduled for Sunday, May 29.
Herta wins wet and wild GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis
INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Colton Herta combined great strategy, great driving and some good luck to win a wet and wild NTT INDYCAR SERIES GMR Grand Prix Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The victory was Herta’s first of 2022 and seventh in his career.
Herta started the race in on wet tires after officials declared a wet race due to wet track conditions and showers in and around the speedway. Herta was the first driver to pit for Firestone red alternate racing slicks and following a blistering lap, leapfrogged into the lead as the rest of the field headed for pit road after seeing Herta’s lap times.
Chaos ensued for several Championship contenders as a result of the conditions and hard racing including points-leader Alex Palou, who on Lap 6 spun and lost a lap after he couldn’t get the No. 10 American Legion Honda restarted. Palou finished 18th.
Josef Newgarden was sent spinning Lap 17 after contact with Jack Harvey. Newgarden’s car had to be towed to the pits with two flat tires. Newgarden eventually returned to the race and finished 25th.
Herta meanwhile never stopped fighting for the win in a race where the middle portion was run on slicks before rain returned about mid-way through the race, which brought out four more caution flags for various spins and off course excursions.
“This is the hardest race I think I’ve ever done,” Herta said. “Wet to dry, dry back to wet. Thank you so much for the Hoosiers for sticking around. I know you’re used to this weather, so thank you very much. Love you guys.”
Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud, who started 20th, finished second and was happy to survive the late downpour.
“It was treacherous at the end,” Pagenaud said. “You’ve got to say congrats to Colton because it was really tough to finish the race. We made the right calls on the tires. It was tricky. It was really tricky to decide.”
The victory was the first for Honda power in 2022 and Honda Performance Development placed three cars in the Top 5.
Team Penske’s Will Power finished third after starting on the pole position. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson finished fourth and was the highest finishing CGR Honda.
Ed Carpenter Racing’s Conor Daly finished fifth after starting fourth, which didn’t even begin to describe a day where the No. 20 Bitnile Chevrolet was up-front, falling like a rock, and coming back through the field.
“I’ve never been in a race like that in my life,” Daly said. “That was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
Scott Dixon and the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda team have to be thinking the same thing after Top 10 finish despite a horrendous qualifying effort that left the six-time Series Champion stating 21st.
“Kind of crazy, up and down, like a yo-yo to be honest,” said Dixon. “We got to the lead and led some laps on strategy. Then the rain came and we ran out of fuel on pit road. Got back onto the lead lap after going a lap down (running out of fuel) and at the end it was so hard to see with the rain.”
Salvaging a Top 10 finish kept Dixon in the Championship hunt heading into the double-points paying Indianapolis 500.
“Glad we ended up with a tenth,” said Dixon. “Decent points. We’re only 37-points out of the lead. We could be leading this thing coming out of the 500.”
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou leads INDYCAR Championship heading into month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway
BIRMINGHAM, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou is leading the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Championship points as the series heads to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Month of May activities including the GMR Grand Prix on May 14 and the 106th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.
Palou took the Championship points lead after a second place finish at this past Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Honda Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park and a third place finish at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 10.
Palou started third at Barber and lost to a spot at the drop of the green flag and spent much of the first stint keeping pace with leaders Rinus VeeKay, Pato O’Ward and McLaughlin.
“I did a couple of mistakes, lost a position on the start with the No. 3 position in the restart with 27,” said Palou. “That just cost me a lot of track time, a lot of track position let’s say.”
Palou ran in the Top 5 all day and was able to get around McLaughlin with the help of his No. 10 American Legion Honda pit crew, who leap frogged McLaughlin, on the final round of pit stops when Palou was able to stay out a lap longer than his other competitors.
“We made a risky strategy of staying out a lot more than others, saving fuel,” said Palou, who won last year’s race at Barber in his debut with CGR.
Palou was trailing VeeKay and O’Ward following the last round of pit stops and set his sights on second place, which was now occupied by VeeKay who passed on the outside by O’Ward in Turn 5. Palou knew he had to go.
“I went two laps longer so I knew I could push more,” explained Palou. “I didn’t really had to save that much fuel as him. I said, Okay, we’ll have a chance, have plenty of overtake to use. I felt really comfortable with the car. Started pushing.”
Palou passed VeeKay on Lap 63 and started running down O’Ward in the closing laps.
“I pushed till the end,” said Palou. “Caught him on some laps, lost a little bit of time on some others. He was really good. It’s maybe a track where even if you’re a little bit faster, you cannot really pass. It’s so hard. As soon as I would get, I don’t know, a second close to him, I would just lose my front and drop 3/10ths max. I was trying to push him and try and make him to do a mistake or try to make him to push too much, have to save fuel. But, no, he did a good job.”
Palou, the defending Series Champion, now sets his sights on The GMR Grand Prix and ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.
“I cannot wait,” said Palou. “It’s such a special place. It’s good that we got a good race now, I don’t know, to get a bit more relaxed going into Indy road course where we had strong results there and we were competitive. Cannot wait for the 106th Indianapolis 500.”