Takuma Sato dominated proceedings at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, leading home Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais to leapfrog himself into the title fight
Sato had taken pole ahead of Rahal Letterman Lanigan teammate Graham Rahal on Saturday, heading the first RLL front row since 2005. When the green flag waved Sato duly took off to lead by over a second after the first lap and leave his teammate battling the Ganasi of Dixon, but things started to unravel a bit for the RLL team as Sato made his first stop. His first stop on lap 17 could have been a disaster, as a problem with the left rear saw a stop of over 11 seconds almost cost him the lead as Dixon came in next time by. But a blistering outlap from Sato saw him just stay ahead and he was then able to rebuild his advantage. Rahal meanwhile had a nightmare stop, a sticking throttle needing to be fixed and he dropped outside the top ten as a result.
Sato was in control all the way, right up until the one and only full course yellow appeared near the end of the race, caused by Rahal stopping on track and Max Chilton being cut off by Tony Kanaan as they entered the pits, the former ending up in the barriers as a result. The race at COTA beforehand saw Alexander Rossi and Will Power lose out as the pits closed during an FCY in that race, causing irritation from Power. IndyCar let the field pit before doing so this time so nobody was affected by the FCY for Rahal and Chilton.
The restart saw Sato pull away, despite running off track and damaging his diffuser near the very end of the race. He regained his advantage and lead home Dixon and Bourdais, who used a two stop strategy to get up the order as most around used a three stop. Penske meanwhile had a nightmare weekend as none of their cars qualified in the top six, although Josef Newgarden did put in a great recovery from 16th to finish fourth and deny Rossi with just a few laps to go. Other drivers who had strong races included James Hinchcliffe who finished sixth, whilst rookie teammate and ex Sauber F1 driver Marcus Ericsson had a phenomenal race, finishing seventh and making some incredible overtakes on his way to that finish. Ryan Hunter-Reay had a mixed day finishing eighth, with Simon Pagenaud and Felix Rosenqvist rounding out the top ten.
Power struggled to an 11th place finish, whilst COTA winner Colton Herta had a poor day end didn’t finish the race thanks to some fuel pick up problems.