Sato looks for a St. Pete encore and/or Long Beach repeat on Sunday


LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two years ago, Takuma Sato delivered one of the most popular victories in recent Verizon IndyCar Series history.

Sato broke through for his first career win on the streets of Long Beach in a dominant effort, and broke an 11-plus year winless drought for A.J. Foyt Enterprises in doing so.

Though he hasn’t won since, Sato and the rest of his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda crew were the class of the Honda field on the series’ last street course in St. Petersburg.

After a down weekend in NOLA Motorsports Park last weekend, Sato expects the St. Pete form to return this weekend in Long Beach.

“I think we can carry it over,” Sato told MotorSportsTalk during Thursday’s media luncheon ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“We’re coming off a different circumstance … NOLA was a little different environment. The St. Petersburg performance could translate well here. It’s a street course, it’s a little similar, and hopefully we’ll be strong again.”

This race will mark the first street race since INDYCAR introduced manufacturer aero kit upgrades to improve structural rigidity, following the debris-strewn race at St. Petersburg.

Sato put a lot of that action down to the fact it was the first race of the year, more than specifically blaming the kits for the onslaught of debris cautions.

“We were out of racing for half a year,” Sato said. “If anything, the first race is always exciting. It wasn’t massive contact for anyone.

“It was just a matter of new racing again, with learning the aero kits, and with more carbon fiber parts. Naturally if you had contact, there was debris. Hopefully there won’t be as much here.”

With Mike Conway out of the field, Sato is again the most recent Long Beach winner actually in the field this weekend, as he was last year when he reminisced about it.

He said it remains one of his career’s most special memories and he’d love to repeat.

It’s a possibility, for sure, heading into Sunday. Much will depend on how well he and teammate Jack Hawksworth will roll off the transporters ahead of first practice on Friday.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.