Sato edges Carpenter to take victory in wild race at Gateway

7 Mins read
Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

In what was arguably the most exciting race of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series so far, Takuma Sato took victory in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway Motorsports Park, beating Ed Carpenter to the chequered flag by just four-hundredths of a second. Tony Kanaan completed what was a highly unlikely podium, with all three hitting the front after a well-timed caution towards the end of the race.

For a vast majority of the 248-lap race at Gateway Motorsports Park last night, the drivers and fans may have had a pretty good idea who was going to be fighting for the victory at the end of the race. After the opening laps, very few people would have actually picked the eventual race winner, Takuma Sato, however.

Pole-sitter Josef Newgarden held on to his lead for much of the early stages of the race, but it became clear that the Dale Coyne Racing duo of Santino Ferrucci and Sebastien Bourdais were very much in contention for the victory. After a well-timed caution that saw the original leaders shuffled back into the pack, James Hinchcliffe would take the lead of the race but would have Ferrucci in hot pursuit. Santino would take the lead on the eighty-third lap of the race and would begin to stretch his legs, building a five second lead over the next ten laps that would then extend to almost eight seconds another ten laps later.

Ferrucci would ultimately go on to lead the most laps of anybody during the race, with it looking likely that the rookie could be on course to pick up his first NTT IndyCar Series victory. However, for the second year in a row, the Gateway race was turned on its head by a caution. This time, the caution would come out right in the middle of what was a vital green flag pit-stop sequence, with only four cars on the lead lap at the time of the yellow flag. Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter and Josef Newgarden were the lucky drivers to benefit from the yellow flag, with all four drivers able to pit for new tyres and fuel. With such little time remaining in the race – with just over forty laps to go when the green flag came back out – all four drivers were now in a prime position heading into the closing stages.

Newgarden was surprisingly unable to keep on terms with the new race leaders and instead had to focus his attention on a battle for fourth place with former-leader Ferrucci. This allowed for a tense final few laps for the race, with Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan and Ed Carpenter fighting for what would be a very unlikely victory.

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

Sato cleared away at the front, building as much as a two second lead at various points over the final few laps. However, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver started to slow due to being stuck behind the lapped car of James Hinchcliffe as the race entered its final ten laps. Kanaan was able to close to within a second of the race lead, but before he could try and battle Takuma for the lead, he himself would find himself under attack from Ed Carpenter, who stormed past with just over three laps remaining.

Carpenter had a head full of steam after his pass for second place. He continued his momentum to march right up to the gearbox of Sato for the final lap of the race, with the pair separated by just one tenth of a second as they took the white flag. Carpenter was not quite able to get alongside Sato, but he would get a great exit out of the final corner and would pull alongside right as the pair took the chequered flag. However, it was not quite enough of a run to see Carpenter usurp Sato at the last moment.

Takuma Sato would ultimately cross the line to take his second victory of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, with just 0.0399 of a second separating him from Ed Carpenter at the finish. It was a stunning end to the race for Sato, who entered the weekend having endured a large amount of criticism for his role in the opening lap pile-up at Pocono Raceway the race before.

What’s more, Sato had not had the easiest of races by any stretch, with the Japanese driver having fallen back from fifth on the grid to stone-cold last-place in the early stages. Ultimately, his unplanned early pit-stop that put him off-sequence to everyone else was what would see him put into contention for the victory, as he had been able to stay out for a few extra laps and take the lead prior to the final caution of the night.

After what has been a difficult part-time season, Ed Carpenter was sad not to have ended his year with a race win, commenting afterwards that had the finish line been just a little further down the straight, he could have just pipped Sato. Nevertheless, the American was delighted to have taken his and Ed Carpenter Racing‘s best result of the season, especially after both he and the team seemed quite far off of the pace earlier in the weekend.

In a podium with an average age of just over forty-one years old, A.J. Foyt Enterprises‘ Tony Kanaan would take the final spot, standing on the podium for the first time since Texas Motor Speedway in 2017. The Brazilian veteran would be delighted at the result – which was also Foyt’s first oval podium since Kansas Speedway in 2002 – as it would allow him to “shut up” some of his critics who had been against him for his difficult last two seasons competing with the team.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Arguably the driver of the night, Santino Ferrucci, would finish in fourth place for the second weekend in a row, his third fourth-place finish of the season. It was a stunning display by Santino in the #19 car prior to the final pit-stop of the night, when the team would struggle with both his tyre change and getting the fuel back in the car. He had been on course to lose the race lead anyway as a result of the slow pit-stop, but the final caution did not help either as it shuffled him too far back to recover in the closing stages, despite all of his efforts.

The championship-leader, Josef Newgarden, had been on course to take a fifth-place finish as he came around the final two turns of the race on lap 248. However, when Ferrucci ahead of him went wide and got out of the groove, Newgarden spotted an opportunity to take fourth place. He tried to shoot the gap on the inside of Santino, but the rookie would come right down to retake the racing line for the exit of the corner.

This forced Newgarden to take avoiding action, which subsequently saw him spin around. The American was left in anti-stall mode for an agonising crawl to the finish line, with Josef eventually crossing the line in seventh place. Newgarden was furious with Santino because of the incident and decided to go and talk to the rookie to tell him that his actions had been “dangerous.” Santino, himself, also admitted post-race that he could have given Newgarden more room.

The two drivers that benefitted from Newgarden’s last lap spin were fifth-place finisher Simon Pagenaud and sixth-place finish, Conor Daly. It was a storming end to the race for Pagenaud, who now sits in second place in the standings heading into the final two races. However, Daly’s drive in the #59 Carlin was even better. The American was able to drag the slower car into the top ten – getting right in the mix with some of the fastest in the business – and would take Carlin’s best finish of the season in sixth. A result like that will do Daly the world of good as he tries to secure a seat for 2020.

Just behind the aforementioned seventh-place finisher, Josef Newgarden would be Ryan Hunter-Reay for Andretti Autosport. Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta would take ninth place, with Marco Andretti completing the top ten. Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist had his best showing on an oval yet, having run consistently in the top ten for a vast majority of the race. He was shuffled back during the final caution and would finish in eleventh place; the last driver on the lead lap.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

After a difficult start to the race that saw him dealing with handling issues, Alexander Rossi looked to be in with a shot of clawing back some vital points to Newgarden in the championship standings. However, the Californian was arguably the driver who lost the most during the ill-timed final caution. He was still a lap down on the race leader when the caution came out and would be unable to pit for new tyres as he needed to take the wave around to get back onto the lead lap.

As a result, Rossi would be forced to pit under green during the final twenty laps to make sure he could make it to the end on fuel, which would see him end the race in thirteenth place, one lap down on the leaders. The second poor finish in a row means that Rossi has now lost second place in the championship standings to Simon Pagenaud and will now have it all to do in the final two races to try and take his first championship crown.

Five drivers failed to finish last night’s race. Graham Rahal was classified in eighteenth place after suffering with mechanical issues at the end of the race. Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais had been in contention for the race win for much of the race, but he would understeer into the wall on the exit of turn four just after his final pit-stop and would spin across the track and cause the final caution. He would fail to finish what had been such a promising race and would be classified in nineteenth.

It was also a disappointing day for the reigning champion, Scott Dixon. The New Zealander now trails championship-leader Newgarden by seventy points after failing to finish last night due to a radiator leak on his #9 Ganassi Honda. The New Zealander will now be hoping for miracle if he wants to defend his title.

Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot was classified down in twenty-first place after crashing out of the race following an incident with Carlin’s Charlie Kimball. Pigot had a hard hit after backing his #21 Chevrolet into the outside wall, but he was thankfully unhurt and able to walk away.

The final driver on the scoreboards last night was Team Penske’s Will Power. The Australian entered the weekend as the defending race winner after his first win of 2019 last weekend at Pocono Raceway. He also entered as the most recent Gateway winner after taking the victory twelve months ago. However, the Australian got onto the marbles on the outside of the track shortly after his first pit-stop and would hit the wall just after the first fifty laps. The result is Power’s third retirement of the year and his sixth finish outside of the top ten.

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will continue next weekend with the penultimate round of the season, the Grand Prix of Portland at Portland International Raceway, on Sunday, September 1. Josef Newgarden will enter the final two races with a thirty-eight point lead over Simon Pagenaud.

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Bommarito Automotive Group 500 – Race results:

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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