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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IMSA results, points, stats package after Sunday at Road America

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Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor delivered Team Penske’s first victory this season in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, winning at Road America from the pole position Sunday and moving up to sixth in points after finishing no better than seventh in the first three races this season.

The Team Penske No. 7 Acura DPi led a race-high 48  of 63 laps, including the final four after Castroneves seized a restart to take first from Renger van der Zande, who finished second with Ryan Briscoe in the No. 10 Cadillac DPi.

Other class winners at the Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, road course were the No. 81 ORECA LMP2 07 of Henrik Hedman and Ben Hanley in LMP2, the No. 3 Corvette C8.R of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor in GTLM and the No. 12 Lexus RC F GT3 of Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo in GTD.

RAIN-SOAKED RELIEF: Castroneves delivers Penske’s first win with late pass

Here are the race stats, points and results from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America:


RESULTS: Click here for the overall finishing order and here for the class breakdown.

POINTS: In the DPi standings, the No. 10 Cadillac of Briscoe and van der Zande leads by six points (124-118) over the No. 5 Cadillac of Joao Barbosa and Sebastien Bourdais.

The No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor leads the GTLM standings with 130 points, 10 more than the No. 912 Porsche of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor.

In GTD, the No. 12 Lexus of Bell and Montecalvo moved into the lead by four points (121-117) over AIM Vasser Sullivan teammates Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz in the No. 14 Lexus.

The No. 38 of Performance Tech Motorsport leads in LMP2.

Click here for the points standings for drivers and teams after Road America.

STATS PACKAGE FOR ROAD AMERICA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Leader sequence

Lap chart

Race analysis by lap

NEXT: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT classes will race Aug. 21-22 at Virginia International Raceway.