SATO REIGNS SUPREME AT HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA

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  • Takuma Sato dominates at Barber Motorsports Park
  • Honda drivers sweep victory podium with Scott Dixon second, Sebastien Bourdais third
  • Second Honda NTT IndyCar Series victory in three races

Takuma Sato dominated today's Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver starting from the pole and leading 74 of 90 laps at Barber Motorsports Park to claim his fourth career IndyCar Series Victory. The win is the second for Honda in the opening three races of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship, and vaults Sato to third in the drivers' championship standings.

What started as a contest of strategy – with several teams electing to complete the race on just two pit stops versus the usual three – became a more straightforward race to the finish following a caution flag on Lap 60, when Max Chilton went off course at the pit entrance and made contact with the safety barrier.

But no matter the strategy, Sato was in command through most of the day after starting from the pole for the eighth time in his career. At 42, Sato is the second-oldest series regular competing in the 2019 season, and his win comes just two weeks after fellow Honda driver Colton Herta became the youngest winner in series history (aged 18), at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX.

Behind the leader, Sebastien Bourdais – the quickest of the two-stoppers – battled Scott Dixon for second, with the duel becoming particularly intense in the final 10 laps. At the checkers, it was Dixon finishing second at Barber for the sixth time in 10 races here, and moving up to second in the drivers' title chase. Bourdais, meanwhile, completed a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium for Honda drivers and teams.

Running well in the closing laps, Alexander Rossi edged fellow Honda driver James Hinchcliffe for fifth at the checkers. Hinchcliffe's Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate, Marcus Ericsson, claimed seventh just ahead of Rossi's Andretti Autosport teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay. Felix Rosenqvist rounded out the top 10 in his Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, giving the manufacturer eight of the top 10 finishing positions.

Next
The NTT IndyCar Series now heads directly to Southern California for next weekend's Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The fourth round of the 17-race championship will be televised live on the NBC Sports Network, April 14, starting at 4 p.m. EDT.

Social media content and video links from this weekend's Honda IndyCar Series action from the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama are available on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/HondaRacing_HPD) channels. Produced by the Carolinas Production Group, YouTube video packages can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV

Quotes
Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) Started first, finished first, fourth career Indy car win, first victory of 2019: "This is for the team, for their fantastic effort. Our car was superb, you know. I mean, red tire, black tire, I never had to worry about anything. So full credit to the team. It's a great result. A really big ‘thank you' to Bobby [Rahal] and Mike Lanigan to make this possible for me. And big ‘thank you' to Graham Rahal. He found a very good setup and I installed it on my car as well. We were working so closely together. I mean today, either of us was going to be competitive. It was very unfortunate what happened to him [Rahal did not finish due to an electrical issue], but this is great for the team."

Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) Started fourth, finished second: "We had a lot of tire degradation [speed falling off as tires wear during a run]. We started off where we could push really hard and be really quick and close the gap [to leader Takuma Sato], early on in the race. But the last 10 laps were just miserable. On that last run, I just tried to hold a steady gap to Sato, and from there, I have to thank the team. The PNC Bank guys were very strong in the pits and we jumped Sebastien [Bourdais] in the pits. He drove a hell of a race and went really far on that first stint. Bourdais was good on tire degradation. Another second [place finish at Barber], and now second in points. Hopefully, we can try and get a win here one day." 

Ted Klaus (President, Honda Performance Development) on today's race win and podium sweep for Honda, his first race as president of HPD: "What was special this weekend, to my eyes, was just how difficult this series is – even for these pinnacle-level teams. Every race circuit offers its own challenges, but it's encouraging to see the capabilities from all of our teams and drivers. It was a dominant weekend for our entire IndyCar Series program, after several challenging years here. It's always extra sweet to win at a Honda-sponsored event, and I love how Honda Manufacturing of Alabama [a manufacturing facility located in nearby Lincoln, AL] has embraced this event. We're proud to be the title sponsor of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, and to support HMA's efforts. All of us at Honda will go home with our heads held high tonight, but the celebration will be brief, as it will be time to do it all over again next weekend at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.”

NTT IndyCar Series Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama
Circuit: Barber Motorsports Park (2.3-mile road course) Birmingham, Ala.
2018 Winner: Josef Newgarden (Team Penske) 93.335 mph average [rain]
Weather: Partly cloudy, warm, 80 degrees F

Top-10 Race Results:

Fn.

St.

Driver

Team

Manufacturer

Laps

Notes

1.

1.

Takuma Sato

Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Honda

90

107.272 mph average

2.

4.

Scott Dixon

Chip Ganassi Racing

Honda

90

+2.3874

3.

5.

Sebastien Bourdais

DCR with Vasser-Sullivan

Honda

90

 

4.

16.

Josef Newgarden

Team Penske

Chevrolet

90

 

5.

8.

Alexander Rossi

Andretti Autosport

Honda

90

 

6.

5.

James Hinchcliffe

Arrow Schmidt Peterson

Honda

90

 

7.

20.

Marcus Ericsson-R

Arrow Schmidt Peterson

Honda

90

 

8.

11.

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Andretti Autosport

Honda

90

 

9.

14.

Simon Pagenaud

Team Penske

Chevrolet

90

 

10.

17.

Felix Rosenqvist-R

Chip Ganassi Racing

Honda

90

 

Other Honda Results

12.

23.

Zach Veach

Andretti Autosport

Honda

90

Running

13.

11.

Jack Harvey

Meyer Shank Racing

Honda

90

Running

14.

13.

Marco Andretti

Andretti Autosport

Honda

90

Running

15.

10.

Santino Ferrucci-R

Dale Coyne Racing

Honda

90

Running

23.

2.

Graham Rahal

Rahal Letterman Lanigan

Honda

55

Did not finish – electronics

24.

9.

Colton Herta-R

Harding Steinbrenner Rcg

Honda

31

Did not finish – fuel pressure

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