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Takuma Sato And Honda Returning to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing For 2020 Season

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Chris Jones/IndyCar Series

MONTEREY, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is brining Takuma Sato back for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Season after exercising their option on the veteran driver.

Three of Sato’s five career IndyCar Series victories have come with the team, including the Bommarito 500 at World Wide Technology 500 at Gateway.  Sato also won from pole in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park, claimed the pole for the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway and third-place podium finishes at the Indianapolis 500 and Race 1 in Detroit.

“We have been very pleased with the results and level of competition Takuma has shown this season,” said Bobby Rahal, co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with David Letterman and Mike Lanigan. “His two wins and two poles don’t fully indicate how competitive he has been overall this season and the fact that he was a contender at many other races. He is an integral part of our team which I believe we have shown. This decision allows us to keep the continuity and continue to build upon our program for 2020.”

Sato drove for RLL in 2012 and returned in 2018.  2020 will be Sato’s third consecutive season with the team.

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“I am very happy to continue our path together again after this season,” said Sato, a native of Tokyo, Japan.  “Every single member of the team is extremely loyal and have given me unbelievable support. I truly feel at home here and I am so proud of the team. We have had another great season this year and even had some tough times but it only made our relationship stronger. I can’t thank Bobby, Mike, David and the entire team enough and I am looking forward to finishing the season strong and also looking forward to 2020.”

In addition to retaining Sato for 2020, RLL announced that Honda will continue to power the team in 2020 and beyond with a multi-year deal.  RLL has earned 12 wins, 13 poles and 81 top-five finishes with Honda.

“We are pleased to not only continue what is the longest-standing relationship our team has had but to also continue to strengthen it,” said Rahal. “We appreciate the belief Honda has put in our technical team and organization overall and our mutual respect will enable us to continue to grow as a team. The scope of the offseason projects we have lined up have us looking forward to the 2020 season and beyond as we approach the 30-year anniversary of the program in 2024.”

“We’re excited to continue our long and successful partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing,” said Ted Klaus, President of Honda Performance Development. “As many fans know, Bobby Rahal and his team were our first partner when Honda entered Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) competition in 1994, joined us when Honda entered the IndyCar Series in 2003, and with driver Buddy Rice recorded our first Indianapolis 500 win in 2004. We look forward to additional success with RLL in the seasons ahead.”

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Pato O’Ward wins INDYCARs race two in Detroit

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Joe Skibinski

DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward passed Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden with three laps-to-go to win Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 on the temporary street circuit on Belle Isle.

“I have a lot of faith in myself whenever the car is wiggling around,” said O’Ward. “I know I’m very strong on cold tires, so I took advantage of it, got by people and got her done.”

The 24-hours of the island were certainly a battle for the team, who saw a frightening crash in race one on Saturday that sent teammate Felix Rosenqvist to the hospital Saturday night for observation.

“When you see something like that happen to a race driver, it puts your stomach in your throat,” said Taylor Kiel, President Arrow McLaren SP. “First of all, we’re happy that Felix is okay and he’ll be back with us soon. Certainly bringing home a victory was top of mind in trying to help Felix’s recovery a little bit, but man, what a great effort from everybody, certainly from the men and women on the 7 car to get that thing fixed and ready to compete today. But also the men and women on the 5 car, to make it a race-winning car. We had a great car today. Pato did what he needed to do. The team did what they needed to do. And when you execute like that, we’re tough to beat.”

Newgarden led a race-high 67-laps on Sunday and was obviously not happy.

Three Rivers Karting

“Just kind of was what it was there at the end,” said Newgarden. “Felt like we had a good car and just didn’t work our way strategy-wise and some of the times that we had to pit where we thought we had to pit because a yellow was probably going to come out, I think it all just didn’t play into our favor.”

The win also vaulted O’Ward into the Championship points lead as he is the only repeat winner of 2021.

O’Ward leads Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou by one point, 299-298, and Scott Dixon (263) by 36-points.

The next race is the REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR on Sunday, June 20 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, with live coverage starting at noon (ET) on NBCSN and the INDYCAR Radio Network. On-track action starts with practice at 5:15 p.m. Friday, June 18, streamed live on Peacock.

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson scores first career INDYCAR series win Saturday in Detroit

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Chris Owens/INDYCAR

DETROIT, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson has been knocking on the door of victory the past two seasons but even he couldn’t have imagined how his first win would unfold.

Ericsson held off Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay and Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward over a three-lap shootout to win Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on the temporary street circuit on Belle Isle.

Ericsson was running second in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda, chasing Team Penske’s Will Power, when the caution flag flew on lap 65 for Romain Grosjean, who made contact with the wall in Turn 9.  INDYCAR officials decided to red-flag the race and sent the cars to pit road.

Later when officials restarted the race, Power’s car would not re-fire on pit road.  Power’s crew frantically tried to get the No. 15 Verizon 5G Chevrolet restarted and while they worked Ericsson inherited the lead.

“Unfortunately he (Power) had that problem, which I feel bad for him,” said Ericsson. “He did a great job today. But we’ve had some bad luck these last couple years. I felt like it was about time we had some good luck, so I’ll take it.”

Ericsson didn’t hesitate when the green flag waved, taking off with VeeKay and O’Ward giving chase.  Ericsson held off two of the series first-time winners to become the seventh different winner in seven races, tying a record set in 2017.

“Just had to finish it off with clean restart and clean laps,” said Ericsson. “I think I did a really good restart, then just control it till the end.”

Power was livid that the Series decided to red flag the race and the procedure employed when the cars hit pit road.

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O’Ward understood Power’s frustration.

“I understand they want to end on green,” said O’Ward. “I bet you if I was Will, I’d be telling you no. I feel for him, man. The guy, I’m pretty sure he was the one leading. I think he would have walked away with it if it didn’t go red. It really sucks.”

The late red flag was the second of the race.  The first red flag came on lap 24 when Arrow SP’s Felix Rosenqvist had a throttle stick sending the car into the wall at turn 6 full throttle.

Rosenqvist was shaken-up but was awake and alert in the infield care center.  Rosenqvist was sent to the hospital for observation overnight.  The track barrier sustained damage and the red flag lasted one hour, 18-minutes.

Ericsson’s CGR teammates came into the race 1-2 in the season-long Championship standing with Alex Palou leading Scott Dixon by 36-points.

Palou finished 15th in the No. 10 American Legion Honda and Dixon brought home the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda eighth.

Palou now leads O’Ward by 15-points with Dixon in third place, 26-points back heading in Sunday’s race.

Live coverage of Race 2 of this doubleheader weekend, another 70-lap event, starts at noon (ET) Sunday on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network.

 

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou finishes 2nd in the Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS, IN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was in position to win the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 with three laps to go, leading the field across the yard of bricks. One problem, he had a 3-time winner stalking him from behind.

Palou did everything he could to keep Helio Castroneves behind him, but the Castroneves saw an opportunity as Palou encountered traffic on the next to last lap and pounced to make the pass for the lead and ultimately a record-tying 4th 500 victory.

“I tried everything,” explained Palou. “It hurts. But to be honest, it’s good to lose against probably one of the best. It was a close battle until the end. The good thing is that the two cars were Honda powered. That’s good. Congrats to Helio and Honda.”

Castroneves said he couldn’t duplicate the speed out front leading that Palou could.

“He was very good,” said Castroneves. “He was very fast. The Ganassi guys did a great job. They were very, very strong on their own. They really were able to do some amazing laps. I think it was almost 221. I try myself, and I couldn’t do it. I decided just to wait for the right opportunity.”

The right opportunity came with two laps-to-go when several cars, who were trying to make it to the end of the race without stopping for fuel, were up ahead of the pair racing for the win.

Three Rivers Karting

“When I saw the traffic, it was a bunch of it actually,” explained Castroneves. “I’m like, ‘That’s it, I’m not going to wait because I need that traffic to pull me so I can get the same speed’. When I made the move, I said, ‘That’s it’.”

“When he passed me, I was like, ‘Oh, maybe that’s going to be bad for me’ just because we were reaching the traffic,” said Palou. “As soon as you’re on traffic, you’re not P2 any more, you’re like P8. When you are P8 on a pack, it’s not easy to pass.”

Castroneves said after the race that Palou shouldn’t hang his head after finishing second in ‘The Greatest Spectacle In Racing’.

“He has an incredible talent,” said Castroneves. “He won the first race of the season. Nothing to be shamed. I finished second three times. Did I stop because of that? No. He did a great job. He had a great car. He did everything he possibly could. Last year he didn’t finish. This year he finished second. That’s a big improvement. He should think about the positive side, not the negative.”

Palou was trying to find the positives after the race but he was also disappointed he didn’t win.

“I didn’t expect that a second place would hurt that much until I crossed the finish line,” said Palou. “It huts a lot. But I’m super proud, super happy. I think the No. 10 NTT Data car was super fast.”

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