Takuma Sato took a surprise win from 20th on the grid in a lively return to Portland for the IndyCar series.
Championship leader Scott Dixon salvaged a valuable fourth place ahead of his title rivals despite being involved in a dramatic multi-car crash within moments of the start. Zach Veach squeezed James Hinchcliffe onto a kerb which caused the Schmidt driver to spin in front of the pack. He was collected by Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti, the latter dramatically flipping over Hinchcliffe’s car. All were unhurt.Alexander Rossi leading ahead of Will Power, the scene was set for a race which would close up the championship ahead of the final round at Sonoma. But it didn’t turn out that way.
First Power was delayed by a gearbox fault which robbed him of first gear. That slowed him through the tight Festival curves at the beginning of the lap and added time to his pit stops. That became immaterial when a crash at the final corner ended his chance of a strong points finishes and wrecked his title hopes too.
His team mate Josef Newgarden took up the pursuit of Rossi. He succeeded in passing the Andretti car while running on the softer alternate tyres, and pulled away, but further caution periods scuppered the progress of the early leaders. First Zach Veach went off at the same place as Power and had to be recovered, then series returnee Santino Ferrucci stopped on track prompting another interruption.
This played into the hands of those back in the pack who’s been saving fuel, among them Sato, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dixon, the latter having lost further time with a drive-through penalty for speeding. Max Chilton led the final restart but the Carlin driver still had a final pit stop to make, which handed the lead back to Sato. Despite late pressure from Hunter-Reay, he delivered his first win since last year’s Indianapolis 500.
Sebastien Bourdais claimed the final podium place ahead of Spencer Pigot, who muscled his way past Dixon at the final restart. Simon Pagenaud rose from 22nd to sixth ahead of Charlie Kimball.
Rossi was poorly rewarded with eighth after passing Newgarden and Pietro Fittipaldi after the restart. He will go into the season finale at Sonoma in two weeks 29 points behind Dixon, having looked set to take the championship lead early in the race.
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