Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato is coming off a win in the Series last race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway. Sato is also the defending winner of the Grand Prix of Portland after winning there in 2018.
“It’s great to go back to Portland as the defending winner and also after having won in St. Louis,” said Sato. “The fans waited a long time for the return of IndyCar racing and I’m really honored to be the first winner for the new generation of races there. That was also the first win for me with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing so there are a lot of great memories and happy moments.”
Sato’s victory was the highlight of the day for RLL as Sato’s teammate Graham Rahal was an innocent victim of a first lap crash that took him out of the race.
“I love going to Portland, it’s a great race,” said Rahal. “Last year was not what we hoped for, we were pretty competitive last year, and I expect us to be pretty competitive again this year.”
Rahal said the picturesque 1.964-mile permanent road course is not like most road courses where if you make a mistake you can recover.
In 2018 there was a huge accident on the first lap coming exiting turn three that saw Marco Andretti go up and over a couple of cars.
“There is no margin for error to go fast there,” said Rahal. “Like all tracks, you’ve got to push it to the limit to get the most out of a lap, but there is a very fine line there between what is good and what is not at Portland. And there is not a lot of runoffs so the moment you drop a wheel, you’re really in the grass whereas a lot of other places have a little bit of margin.”
Josef Newgarden comes into the event as the points-leader with his Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud in second place, 38-points behind. Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi is in third place, 46-points behind Newgarden. PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, the five-time and defending series champion, sits in fourth place 70-points out of the top spot.
“We were able to maintain the points lead in Gateway, and that was a huge deal for us,” said Newgarden. “Now we focus on Portland. It’s a technical road course, so we’re really going to have to make sure we hit our marks to make sure we don’t lose any ground.”
“Portland is shaping up to be a super-exciting weekend,” said Pagenaud. “This is the part of the season that I love the most. It is down to the wire exciting racing and competing at our highest level. It’s time to shine.”
“Our mindset has changed a bit from being conservative on our strategy to putting it all out there,” said Rossi. “We have to get another win in order to head into the season finale with a fighting chance for the Astor Cup. We were very strong last year at Portland and could have potentially won, but an untimely yellow caught us out.”