Sato takes surprise win as Dixon survives Portland pile-up


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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.

With Dixon delayed and championship contender 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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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14 comments on “Sato takes surprise win as Dixon survives Portland pile-up”

  1. I got a picture with him at Pocono. Very nice guy and I’m happy that he got Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s first win of the season.

  2. You can tell it’s been a wacky race when Max Chilton leads it.

    1. He really should have pit during the yellow flag.

  3. Dixon must be the luckiest man in Motorsport.

  4. Really fun race! Dixon is good and lucky.

  5. I was there! Hunter-Reay got caught in traffic when he had to make his final stop and it was enough of a delay to let Sato get the overcut! The Rossi and Newgarden teams blew it on strategy by pitting during the previous caution.

    How I wished I had Super Aguri kit to wear.

  6. Mark in Florida
    3rd September 2018, 15:34

    Wow what a race, it had everything in a whole season compressed into one event. What a great result for Sato he is a great racer and always humble and thankful for everything. Dixon is just so smooth and steady he reminds me a lot of Jenson Button. It’s too bad F1 never felt the need to recruit him or some of the other drivers from CART or Indy. I know a few drivers came over here and there. But it’s been pretty few and far in between. The current crop of pay drivers makes me wonder how some of the better drivers from Indy car would compare especially Dixon, Newgarden, Will power, Hunter Reay. Zach Veach is doing great this year. I think F1 is missing out by not looking for anything other than pay drivers. I suppose in today’s climate even Mario Andretti couldn’t get a drive. Imagine how different history would be for F1.

    1. Agreed, Chevy or Ford should come up with an engine and Ganassi, Penske and Andretti should field F1 teams, About time the sport became truly global, the euros would have a heart attack, clearly they’re anti american,just look at the BS setup Haas have benn subjected to by the FIA>

      1. ^Just a dream of course…….Please ignore the silly post!

  7. I was there. Pretty good race.
    Saw the first lap incident (between the clouds of dust), there was a bit of crowd silence and some holy F-bombs when you saw the car go over.
    Really nice that we were able to get to the paddock/pit grid-walk and podium areas without having to sell my first-born child. Cool that Takuma Sato won. He was pretty happy.

    1. Mark in Florida
      4th September 2018, 0:52

      I know that you had to enjoy such a great race. I’ve been to the St. Pete grand prix several times and I have always enjoyed it tremendously. It’s a really nice venue it’s easy to get around the track and there are a lot of great view points to see the race. We always sit at the marina grandstand just after the kink. There’s always a lot of action between the cars at that point on the track.

  8. As a IndyCar profane, i watched the race without understanding it fully, but it was very entertaining.

    Coming from seeing the last 20 years of F1 (and junior series like F2 /GP3), i just can not get my head around this series. How a driver like Rossi, in a car that lapped the field in the first part of the race, can lose so many places and finish 9th without having car problems. In F1 that would never be the case, such blunders with strategy would hardly be seen. I understand that on an oval things are hectic, but on a regular racetrack things should be a bit more structured.

    Also, in this race nobody defended the inside of turn1 where most passes occured? It just felt like the level of racecraft was fairly low at most times, at least on the defending side.

    1. A blocking type move to defend is not allowed in IndyCar to promote overtaking.

  9. Mark in Florida
    4th September 2018, 12:46

    @genchichan. The cars are lacking about 1000 lbs of down force. They are much looser than last year. That was part of Indys initiative to get rid of the aero wash coming off the back of the cars. Also you are not allowed to chop block the other driver going into the corner. When you commit to your line you have to stay on it or you risk a penalty. Indy is equal parts strategy and driver skill. That’s why I love it. Any team can win if they play their cards right and they have a good driver.

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