Takuma Sato enters Portland with giant weight off his shoulder

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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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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