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.

WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

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The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

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