Sato wins as Newgarden spins in exciting Bommarito 500 finish

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One week after being blamed by many of his peers as the cause of a multi-car accident at Pocono Raceway, Takuma Sato redeemed himself Saturday evening by winning the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis.

Sato narrowly held off a hard-charging Ed Carpenter in the closing laps to win by a slim margin of 0.0339 seconds for his second victory of the season. The finish was the closest in race history.

“The team made this happen,” Sato told NBC Sports following his victory. “The last couple of days, it was tough. But we kept going, did our job, and obviously today we were a little lucky in terms of strategy but we were fast throughout this week.”

After falling to the back of the pack early on in the race, Sato slowly made his way through the field. As the race began to wind down, Sato, running on a different pit strategy than the leaders, took the lead on lap 188 when the leaders pitted, and would maintain his lead through the checkered flag following his final pit stop.

The unusual pit strategy didn’t just pay off for Sato and Carpenter, though. Tony Kanaan was also able to hold on for a third-place finish, his first podium since Detroit race 2 in 2015.

But Sato’s victory and surprising podium would not be the only story line following the race. Just as Sato took the checkered flag, the attention quickly turned to series point leader Josef Newgarden, who spun in the final corner after attempting to avoid contact with Santino Ferrucci.

Ferrucci got loose in the marbles high in Turn 3 and dived down into the racing line, almost making contact with Newgarden, who ran into the inside grass in an attempt not to hit the rookie. Ferrucci ended up finishing fourth, but Newgarden struggled to get his car into gear and slowly meandered over the finish line, finishing the race in the seventh position.

Following the race, Newgarden expressed his displeasure with Ferrucci’s last-lap move.

“It’s important to know that he’s a rookie,” Newgarden told NBC Sports. “What he did was, in my opinion, dangerous.

“He came directly back down to the racing line to try and block at the end, which [there] was no reason to. I gave him the position twice because I was suffering with vibrations all night and my car was getting quite difficult to drive at the end of that stint, so I let him go two times during the night.

“He’s got to learn that this is big-time auto racing. If you do a move like that on an oval, you will cause a very serious wreck.”

Both Newgarden and Ferrucci would speak to each other following the finish, and Ferrucci would have an opportunity to respond to Newgarden’s criticism.

“At the end there, I was really trying to get T.K. [Tony Kanaan], and I lost the car,” Ferrucci said. “I wanted to get out of the marbles, and I did close the line there a little bit too much but obviously we’re fighting for two different championships and at the end of the day, I did what I had to do and save the car.

“Unfortunately, he got the worst of it, but he still finished the race and he picked up some good championship points.”

Indeed, Newgarden would extend his lead in the standings, and he now holds a 38-point lead over teammate Simon Pagenaud, who finished fifth in the race.

Alexander Rossi fell to third in the standings following a disappointing 13th-place finish, but still remains in the championship hunt, 46 points back.

But the four-car championship race has essentially turned into a three-car race, as Scott Dixon took his car into the garage early on in the race due to a radiator puncture. Dixon would briefly return to the track later in the race, but would eventually retire from the race and have to settle for a disappointing finish in the 20th position.

Other notables to retire from the race included Will Power, Spencer Pigot and Sebastian Bourdais, all of whom made contact with the Turn 4 wall.

The NTT IndyCar Series now heads to the Pacific Northwest for the penultimate round of the 2019 season at Portland International Raceway. Live coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland begins Sunday, September 1 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

Click here for full race results

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).