Sato Wins the Honda Indy GP of Alabama from Pole

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing release

Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Round 3 of 17 in the NTT IndyCar Series
RACE NOTES/QUOTES – Sunday, April 7, 2019

SATO WON HIS INDYCAR FIRST RACE FROM POLE AND FOURTH OVERALL AT THE HONDA INDY GP OF ALABAMA; RAHAL COMFORTABLY RAN SECOND BEFORE A THROTTLE POSITION SENSOR ISSUE OCCURRED AND THEN LATER RETIRED DUE TO AN ELECTRICAL ISSUE

GRAHAM RAHAL, No. 15 One Cure Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “About Lap 3 the throttle started to stick, and I tried to make it hang on. We did, I don’t know, 15 laps that way. Finally, it was going to put me in a gravel trap or something; for sure I was hanging on way too much. The car just died, completely shut off. We had this (problem) in qualifying, luckily it was on my cool-down lap from the lap where I (qualified second). But these have to be connected. Last night we changed the throttle pedal, we changed the sensors, we checked all the tuning. I don’t know, but it has to be something in the loom. It’s just a shame. One Cure, this whole team, was working really good. Takuma and I were running away there at the start. I thought it was our day, man, I thought it was our weekend. Here and at St. Pete, with the flat tire, man, c’mon. At some point (our luck) has got to change.”

  • FAST FACTS: Rahal comfortably held second place after the start and proceeded to build a two-second gap over third place Dixon while approaching his first pit stop. He reported an issue with his throttle position sensor that led to a stuck throttle and pit to address it on Lap 18. The team reset the car and changed the throttle position sensor and he returned to the track dropped back to 16th. He cycled into 12th by the time he made his second stop on Lap 34 and then returned on track in 19th.  He was in 11th place on Lap 56 when he reported that the car turned off and he stopped on tack and brought out a caution.  He made his best start of second place at BMP in his 10th race here … He played a major factor in the most exciting races of the 2015 and 2016 seasons as he challenged for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama win but finished second  both times.  His best start is sixth in 2016… Has six IndyCar Series wins (2008 – St. Pete street course; 2015 – Fontana Super Speedway, Mid-Ohio road course; 2016 – Texas Super Speedway; 2017 Detroit Race 1, Detroit Race 2) and three poles (2009 – St. Pete street course, Kansas oval; 2017 – Detroit Race 1 street) and his highest series season-ending standing is fourth place in 2015… He is ranked 13th in series point standings with 58 points.

TAKUMA SATO, No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “It’s really a big thank you for Bobby (Rahal), Dave (Letterman) and Mike Lanigan to make this (possible) for me. And big thank you to Graham Rahal; we were working so closely together. I mean today, either of us was going to be competitive. It was very unfortunate what happened to him, but this is great for the team. (Slow first stop) I think on the No. 30 car we have new boys and always learning, and (slow stops) happen; it’s racing. You know, I make mistakes too. It’s OK. I think we were back in the lead after that, and the car was superb today. (Late mistake) Maybe I shouldn’t have pushed that hard. It was a very intense battle; it was good.”

  • FAST FACTS: After leading 74 of 90 laps and controlling the race with the exception of pit stops, Sato took the checkered flag with a 2.3874-second lead over second place Scott Dixon.  Earned his eighth series pole and first on a road course. Was his 10th race here.  His highest start here is sixth in 2010 with KVRT and highest finish is eighth in 2018 with RLL… Has three IndyCar Series wins (2013 – Long Beach street course, 2017 – Indy 500 oval; 2018 Portland road course) and SEVEN poles (2011 Iowa oval, Edmonton street; 2013 Houston Race 1 street; 2014 St. Pete street, Detroit Race 2 street; 2017 Detroit Race 2, Pocono oval).  He moved from his pre-race rank of 13th place to third with 99 points.

RLL AT BARBER: The team 1-2 qualifying result was the first for the team since September 11, 2005 at Chicagoland when Danica Patrick won pole and Buddy Rice started second. The 2019 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama marked the eighth IndyCar Series race for the team at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP) and first victory here.  The previous best finishes for the team came in 2015 and 2016 where RLL and Graham Rahal played a major role in the most exciting races of those seasons and earned second place finishes each year.  The team’s previous best start was sixth by Rahal in 2016.

NEXT UP:  The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is next weekend, April 12-14.