LONG POND, Pennsylvania – Takuma Sato has been roasted and criticized by his fellow NTT IndyCar Series drivers for his role in a first lap crash in Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
On Tuesday, his team came to his defense.
The massive crash in Turn 2 was triggered when Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Sato went three wide before making contact.
By the time the crash was over, rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist and Sato both sailed into the fence – the second year in a row a driver has damaged the fence at Pocono Raceway. Last year, Robert Wickens suffered serious injuries and was paralyzed from the waist down after his car ran over the top of Hunter-Reay’s, sending Wickens’ Honda into the fence just past Turn 2.
After taking the blame, Sato told NBC Sports.com Sunday night that he had reviewed the onboard video footage that was available to his team and said he never moved his hands and switched lanes. He also showed NBC Sports.com some screen shots to show that he had not changed his lane and Sato believed the contact was initiated between Hunter-Reay and Rossi.
The team has issued a statement in regard to the opening lap crash at Pocono Raceway.
The statement can be found here: https://t.co/5Nc7HWIS8y
We stand behind our drivers and have absolute faith in their ability to race and perform at the highest level for RLL. pic.twitter.com/8WusnDI6bJ
— Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (@RLLracing) August 20, 2019
Hunter-Reay, however, posted video from the NBC telecast from Turn 2 that showed he did not change lanes and it appeared from that angle that he was a victim of the other two cars making contact.
After reviewing the incident, Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team issued a statement Tuesday night supporting the driver from Japan.
Below is that statement:
“Following the events on Lap 1 of Sunday’s INDYCAR race at Pocono Raceway, we are relieved that all drivers emerged unhurt from the crash. Normally in a situation of this nature it is not necessary for a team to comment but following the accusations levied at Takuma Sato, and after reviewing Takuma’s onboard data and camera, we feel that a clarification is necessary. The data and video clearly shows that Takuma did not turn down the track into Alexander in this incident and in fact the first steering wheel movement made by Takuma was to the right, as he tried to correct his car after the initial contact.
“This sort of accident is part and parcel of this type of racing and with track position being vital at every stage of each race is, in our view, a part of the sport. It’s a racing incident and we as a team wish to publicly state that we stand behind our drivers and have absolute faith in their ability to race and perform at the highest level for RLL.
“This was a racing incident which unfortunately may have some championship implications. A crash at Pocono impacted our title aspirations in 2015 while second in the standings so we know the frustration drivers and teams experienced. As always, we are thankful for the quick response of the AMR Safety Team.”
The drivers involved will be back in action Saturday night at World Wide Technology Speedway near St. Louis for the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.
Despite the race being red-flagged while the catchfence was repaired for the second year in a row and the race was shorted to 128 laps because weather, NBC Sports’ coverage of the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono (2:47-6 p.m. ET) averaged a TAD of 553,000 viewers on Sunday across NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app. That was up over last year (548,000) and making it the most-watched INDYCAR race on cable since last year’s finale at Sonoma on Sept. 16 (638,000 viewers).
Will Power’s victory of the weather-shortened race delivered TV-only viewership of 549,000 viewers and a household rating of 0.36.
For 13 races to date across NBC, NBCSN, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series is averaging a TAD of 1.201 million viewers, up 9% vs. last year (ABC/NBCSN/NBC Sports digital).
NBC Sports’ IndyCar coverage continues Saturday night with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 from World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in Madison, Ill., at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.