It proved to be quite a week for NTT IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato.
After being the object of a great deal of ridicule for an opening-lap crash at Pocono Raceway, Sato and his Rahal Letterman Lanigan race team bounced back with a thrilling victory Saturday at Gateway Raceway.
Sato overcame an early problem to assume the lead late in the race on the 1.5-mile oval and barely held off a hard-charging Ed Carpenter at the finish line.
It was also great to see veteran driver Tony Kanaan record a podium finish for A.J. Foyt Racing.
Had there been one more lap, it appears likely Carpenter would have recorded the victory with Sato settling for the runner-up spot.
The driver that was the most impressive was rookie Santino Ferrucci who finished fourth after leading much of the race.
Ferrucci is making a name for himself on the oval tracks the series has competed on and once again made the high groove work to his advantage.
Late in the race, Ferrucci was making a charge toward the front when he got up into the “marbles” and lost several positions. Recovering for the fourth-place finish.
For the second time in recent races, points leader Josef Newgarden cost himself a top-five finish with a blunder on the last lap.
Newgarden was running fifth comfortably on the final lap when he attempted to make an inside pass of Ferrucci in Turn 4 and ended up spinning and losing several positions.
Why Newgarden didn’t settle for a fifth-place finish is hard to understand, particularly when championship contenders Will Power, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi were all having a bad day.
With two races remaining, this weekend at the road course in Portland and the season finale at Laguna Seca, Newgarden has a 38-point lead over Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud.
Rossi is currently third followed by Dixon and Power.
Those are the only five drivers with a chance at the championship. The Laguna Seca race pays double points, so the title is still up for grabs.
Sato is the defending race winner at Portland, and Ryan Hunter-Reay won at the California road course in 2018.
In reality, Dixon and Power both need to score a win at Portland to remain in the title hunt.
It should be an interesting weekend at Portland.
With two races remaining before the NASCAR Monster Energy Chase begins at Darlington and Indianapolis, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is also in need of a victory to contend for a title.
Johnson is 26 points below the cutoff line to make the Chase, and his team has not been performing well all season. Without a win at Darlington or Indianapolis, it will be difficult for Johnson to pick up 26 points.
OTHER RACING NEWS
It is the traditional Labor Day weekend of racing at Winchester Speedway with the JEGS All Stars Tour race set for Sunday and the Champion Racing Association Super Series late models in action Monday.
Anderson Speedway is hosting the Bestway Disposal Night of Thrills with Figure-8 racing action, including the popular trailer race.