Joe Skibinski / IndyCar

Takuma Sato enters Portland with giant weight off his shoulder

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PORTLAND, Oregon – It’s a been a great week for Takuma Sato.

The driver of the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda has worn his title of “Defending Champion” like a badge of honor, as he enters this weekend’s Grand Prix of Portland as not only the most recent winner in NTT IndyCar Series competition, but also as the most recent IndyCar winner at Portland International Raceway.

That’s quite the turnaround for a driver who entered the last race at World Wide Technology Raceway with a cloud of negativity following him around.

After being accused of being responsible behind the Lap 1 crash at Pocono Raceway two weeks ago by both fans online and even some of his peers, Sato did not know what kind of reception he would receive from fans at the track going into the final oval race of the season.

Fortunately for Sato, many of the fans he met in St. Louis showed him support.

“I’ve really appreciated all of the people who have supported me,” Sato told NBC Sports. “The last few weeks have been very difficult, so I’m really happy to share all of the excitement and joy with everyone.”

Sato would have plenty of excitement to share with everyone, as he would go on to win for the second time this season, narrowly edging out Ed Carpenter for the victory in exciting finish to last Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

With his redemption victory last weekend, Sato can now sigh a breath of relief before he returns to action and attempts to duplicate last year’s winning performance in Portland.

“We just need to have a strong race,” Sato said. “That’s what we did last weekend. We just did our job, believed in ourselves, and then we went out and came back really strong.

“We’re carrying great momentum, and my team and I are really up for the last two rounds of the IndyCar Series. We had an amazing week last year, so of course I’ve looked forward to coming back to Portland for the whole year.”

Live coverage of the Grand Prix of Portland begins Sunday, September 1 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.

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IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.