LOS ANGELES: Japanese driver Takuma Sato snatched a thrilling victory in the Bommarito 500 IndyCar race on Saturday, just one week after controversially crashing out at Pocono raceway.
Former Formula One driver Sato had been criticised by several fellow drivers after last week’s crash at Pocono, when a risky move ended up taking out four other racers on the first lap.
However the 42-year-old Rahal Letterman racing driver – who insisted he had not been at fault – responded brilliantly on Saturday in an incident-packed 248-lap battle at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
Sato held off a furious last lap charge by Ed Carpenter to take the line in 2hr 15:53.4687, just under four-hundredths of a second ahead of Carpenter.
Tony Kanaan completed the podium positions to cross in third, with American rookie Santino Ferrucci fourth.
France’s championship contender Simon Pagenaud was fifth.
However there was frustration for points leader Josef Newgarden, who was forced onto the grass on his final turn and ended up losing several positions down the home straight.
Sato meanwhile was mobbed by jubilant teammates and crew in the pits after his dramatic drive.
Despite starting in fifth place on the grid, Sato had struggled early on, dropping to the back of the field.
However several race interruptions allowed him to fortuitously work his way into the lead for the closing stages and he duly took full advantage to seal victory.
“The team made this happen,” Sato said. “The last couple of days, it was tough, but we kept our heads down and did our job.
“Obviously today was a little lucky in terms of strategy but we were fast so it was great. We just made it happen today. A big thank you to the team.”
Championship leader Newgarden remains in a strong position despite his last lap hiccup, leading the standings with 563 points from 15 races.
With two rounds of the 2019 season remaining, Pagenaud has vaulted into second with 525 points.
Alexander Rossi is third with 517 points, ahead of Scott Dixon (493) and Will Power (416).
The championship moves to Portland, Oregon next weekend before concluding at Laguna Seca on Sept 22.