Sato holds off Carpenter for win in St Louis

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 IndyCar Series driver Takuma Sato hasn't had many weeks as wild as this past one.

Sato qualified fifth for Saturday's St, Louise race, dropped to last place after opening-lap contact with other cars in Turn 1 and battled back to win in the closest finish in this track's 10-year history - 0.0399 seconds over Ed Carpenter.

The victory came six days after being the center of attention for his role in the first-lap, multi-car accident at Pocono Raceway that left his car upside down. But the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver stood his ground and focused forward, and that approach led him to his second win of the season, the fifth of his career and first on a short oval track.

Next to the 2017 Indianapolis 500 victory, Sato called this the most gratifying win of his career.

"Yes, I'm sure," he said. "Winning (from) pole at Barber was very significant - just the domination of the weekend is always great credit for the team and satisfaction. But this win is so special - beside Indy 500, obviously nothing like (that). This is just so emotional. Gave me unbelievable boost.

"(It's) a great story."

Sato (No. 30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic Honda) might not have held off Carpenter (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet) had the race gone another corner much less another lap. Carpenter made a valiant charge in the final two laps to overtake Tony Kanaan (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Chevrolet) and close in on Sato. The margin was the closest of the NTT IndyCar Series season.

"It could have been (different winner) if we had a little longer straightaway or another lap," Carpenter said.

After Sato held off Carpenter at the finish line, all eyes turned to P1 Award winner and championship leader Josef Newgarden (No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet), who had been swapping fourth place with rookie Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda). Ferrucci had drifted high a few laps earlier, allowing Newgarden to get past. But Ferrucci passed Newgarden back - apparently in tight form - and Newgarden spun in Turn 4.

"I was happy I wasn't in the (wall), to be honest with you," Newgarden said. "The engine was still going, I wasn't in the wall. (I thought), thank goodness I'm kind of straight, I can't believe we're still going here."

Newgarden's misfortune caused him to drop to seventh place, which cost him six points, but he will head to Portland International Raceway for next weekend's penultimate race with a lead that has grown each of the past two weeks.

Newgarden leads teammate Simon Pagenaud (No. 22 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet) by 38 points, Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi (No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda) by 46 points and Scott Dixon (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) by 70 points after they finished fifth, 13th and 20th, respectively.

Carpenter and Kanaan scored their first top-three finishes of the season. Carpenter last finished second in last year's Indianapolis 500; Kanaan's most-recent podium was at Texas Motor Speedway in 2017.

Ferrucci, who led a race-high 97 of 248 laps, scored his second consecutive fourth-place finish and the third of his rookie season, and it allowed him to move two points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing's Felix Rosenqvist (No. 10 Monster Energy Honda) for the lead in the Rookie-of-the-Year battle.

Conor Daly (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet) gave his team its best finish of the season in sixth place.

The IndyCar Series heads to Portland, Ore., for next Sunday's Grand Prix of Portland. 

Race Results:

1. (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 248, Running

2. (17) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 248, Running

3. (20) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 248, Running

4. (6) Santino Ferrucci, Honda, 248, Running

5. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running

6. (18) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 248, Running

7. (1) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 248, Running

8. (9) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 248, Running

9. (12) Colton Herta, Honda, 248, Running

10. (22) Marco Andretti, Honda, 248, Running

11. (10) Felix Rosenqvist, Honda, 248, Running

12. (7) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 247, Running

13. (11) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 247, Running

14. (15) Zach Veach, Honda, 247, Running

15. (19) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 247, Running

16. (14) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 247, Running

17. (21) Matheus Leist, Chevrolet, 246, Running

18. (16) Graham Rahal, Honda, 226, Mechanical

19. (2) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 189, Contact 

20. (8) Scott Dixon, Honda, 136, Mechanical

21. (13) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 131, Contact

22. (3) Will Power, Chevrolet, 52, Contact

Race Statistics

Winner's average speed: 136.874 mph

Time of Race: 2:15:53.4687

Margin of victory: 0.0399 of a second

Cautions: 5 for 49 laps

Lead changes: 13 among 11 drivers

Lap Leaders:

Newgarden, Josef 1 - 50

Power, Will 51

Ferrucci, Santino 52

Hinchcliffe, James 53

Herta, Colton 54 - 63

Hinchcliffe, James 64 - 82

Ferrucci, Santino 83 - 114

Bourdais, Sebastien 115

Rosenqvist, Felix 116

Ericsson, Marcus 117 - 118

Daly, Conor 119

Andretti, Marco 120 - 123

Ferrucci, Santino 124 - 187

Sato, Takuma 188 - 248

IndyCar Series point standings:  

  1. Newgarden 563
  2. Pagenaud 525
  3. Rossi 517
  4. Dixon 493
  5. Power 416
  6. Sato 382
  7. Hunter-Reay 368
  8. Rahal 346
  9. Ferrucci 326
  10. Rosenqvist 324