With the limelight on championship contenders Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi for much of the day, a strategy call by Japan’s Takuma Sato propelled the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver to his third career Verizon IndyCar Series win in the series’ return to Portland International Raceway.
Sato held off a hard-charging Ryan Hunter-Reay to win his first race of the year.
While Sato celebrated on the top step of the podium, Dixon celebrated still being in the championship hunt after what seemed like could have been a disastrous race. The championship leader was one of five drivers involved in a first lap accident that saw Marco Andretti end up flipping over James Hinchcliffe and Ed Jones. Minimal damage relegated Dixon to the back of the 22 remaining cars on track for the restart.
When the race restarted, Will Power, also in the championship hunt, was the leader. His lead wouldn’t last long after the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet was plagued by gearbox issues most of the day allowing Rossi to sneak by for the lead.
Several misguided strategy calls and untimely cautions dropped Rossi and Josef Newgarden, who seemed to have the best cars, down the field.
Rossi and Newgarden’s miscues wound up benefiting Dixon, even after having to do his pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road halfway through the event.
When all was said and done, Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais joined Sato and Hunter-Reay on the podium. Spencer Pigot finished fourth while Dixon rebounded to a fifth-place finish.
Simon Pagenaud, Charlie Kimball, Rossi, Pietro Fittipaldi and Newgarden rounded out the top-10 finishers. For Fittipaldi, it was his best career finish.
As the series heads to Sonoma Raceway for its last race of the season in two weeks, Dixon holds the points lead over Rossi by 29 points. Power and Newgarden who each 87 points behind Dixon, just barely grasping onto a shot at the championship in the double-points event.