Takuma Sato Wins at Portland

The return of the Verizon IndyCar Series to Portland International Raceway was an outstanding success. The race had a wild start, major championship storylines, and even a surprise winner. When the dust settled, it was Takuma Sato that earned his third career victory, and the first of the season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. This was Sato’s first race win since the 2017 Indianapolis 500, and his first ever on a permanent road course.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was all over his former teammate in the closing laps, after having to save fuel towards the end. The Andretti Autosport driver recorded his fourth runner-up finish of the season. Two-time Portland winner Sebastien Bourdais joined them on the podium, in what was an incredible turnaround after his brutal crash in practice on Saturday. Spencer Pigot and Scott Dixon rounded out the top five, which was the main story in this race.

Grand Prix of Portland Box Score

The opening lap of the race was pure chaos after Zach Veach and James Hinchcliffe touched when James got onto the curbing. Several cars went off course into the dirt, including Dixon, the championship leader. Marco Andretti flipped over Hinchcliffe and came to a stop upside down, but thankfully both drivers were okay. Marco, Graham Rahal, and Ed Jones were all unable to finish the race, but Dixon escaped disaster and was somehow able to continue.

After making a pit stop and restarting in the back of the pack, Dixon began knifing his way through the field. Things didn’t look great for him as Alexander Rossi took over the lead. At one point during the race, Rossi was ahead of Dixon by 40 points in the standings. Just as it appeared that Rossi would be cruising to another victory, the script was flipped. A yellow flag turned the race, and possibly the championship, on its head.

In the end, it was Dixon recording another Top Five result, as Rossi was relegated to an 8th place finish. The 26-point advantage Dixon had entering the race, actually increased to 29 when the checkered flag fell.

Simon Pagenaud started in 22nd, but was the top finishing Penske driver on Sunday. Charlie Kimball collected another Top Ten finish for Carlin Racing, and Pietro Fittipaldi had a solid race and finished 9th. Josef Newgarden had a roller coaster day, battling up front, falling behind, and getting penalized. Through it all, he still managed to finish 10th, but his hopes at repeating as champion look bleak heading into Sonoma.

Will Power started on pole, but a gearbox problem early in the race was just the beginning of his decline. Later in the race, he got into more trouble and ventured off course, making light contact with the tire barriers in Turn11. He ended up 21st on Sunday, and is now tied with his teammate Newgarden for 3rd overall in the standings. The two Team Penske drivers are now 87 points out of the lead heading into the final event in two weeks.

There were two drivers that had an incredible race, but because of the late caution, didn’t have the result to show for it. Jordan King and Jack Harvey are both running partial schedules this season for ECR and SPM, but both put on a show today at Portland. Santino Ferrucci also showed he had the speed for most of the race, before rolling to a stop.

The race featured nine lead changes among six drivers, with Rossi leading the most (32) laps. There were eight penalties issued on the afternoon, and four cautions which accounted for 18 laps. Carlos Munoz had the fastest lap of the race (Lap 19) at 120.367 mph. There are still four drivers without a DNF this season – Dixon, Rossi, Newgarden, and Veach.

It all comes down to this. The final race of the season is in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway on September 16. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the event, which begins at 6:30 PM ET on Championship Sunday.

Photos courtesy of IndyCar

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Driver Quotes

Josef Newgarden: “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 Leist: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: “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: 
“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: “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: 
“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: “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: “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: “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: “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.”

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