INDYCAR team continues to support Takuma Sato after Pocono crash

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LONG POND, Pennsylvania – Takuma Sato has been roasted and criticized by his fellow NTT IndyCar Series drivers for his role in a first lap crash in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.

On Tuesday, his team came to his defense.

The massive crash in Turn 2 was triggered when Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Sato went three wide before making contact.

By the time the crash was over, rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist and Sato both sailed into the fence – the second year in a row a driver has damaged the fence at Pocono Raceway. Last year, Robert Wickens suffered serious injuries and was paralyzed from the waist down after his car ran over the top of Hunter-Reay’s, sending Wickens’ Honda into the fence just past Turn 2.

After taking the blame, Sato told NBC Sports.com Sunday night that he had reviewed the onboard video footage that was available to his team and said he never moved his hands and switched lanes. He also showed NBC Sports.com some screen shots to show that he had not changed his lane and Sato believed the contact was initiated between Hunter-Reay and Rossi.

Hunter-Reay, however, posted video from the NBC telecast from Turn 2 that showed he did not change lanes and it appeared from that angle that he was a victim of the other two cars making contact.

After reviewing the incident, Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team issued a statement Tuesday night supporting the driver from Japan.

Below is that statement:

“Following the events on Lap 1 of Sunday’s INDYCAR race at Pocono Raceway, we are relieved that all drivers emerged unhurt from the crash. Normally in a situation of this nature it is not necessary for a team to comment but following the accusations levied at Takuma Sato, and after reviewing Takuma’s onboard data and camera, we feel that a clarification is necessary.  The data and video clearly shows that Takuma did not turn down the track into Alexander in this incident and in fact the first steering wheel movement made by Takuma was to the right, as he tried to correct his car after the initial contact.

“This sort of accident is part and parcel of this type of racing and with track position being vital at every stage of each race is, in our view, a part of the sport.  It’s a racing incident and we as a team wish to publicly state that we stand behind our drivers and have absolute faith in their ability to race and perform at the highest level for RLL.

“This was a racing incident which unfortunately may have some championship implications. A crash at Pocono impacted our title aspirations in 2015 while second in the standings so we know the frustration drivers and teams experienced.  As always, we are thankful for the quick response of the AMR Safety Team.”

The drivers involved will be back in action Saturday night at World Wide Technology Speedway near St. Louis for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

Despite the race being red-flagged while the catchfence was repaired for the second year in a row and the race was shorted to 128 laps because weather, NBC Sports’ coverage of the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono (2:47-6 p.m. ET) averaged a TAD of 553,000 viewers on Sunday across NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. That was up over last year (548,000) and making it the most-watched INDYCAR race on cable since last year’s finale at Sonoma on Sept. 16 (638,000 viewers).

Will Power’s victory of the weather-shortened race delivered TV-only viewership of 549,000 viewers and a household rating of 0.36.

For 13 races to date across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series is averaging a TAD of 1.201 million viewers, up 9% vs. last year (ABC/NBCSN/NBC Sports digital).

NBC Sports’ IndyCar coverage continues Saturday night with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill., at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III