Saturday's motors: Takuma Sato wins IndyCar stop at World Wide

Ken Roberts
Associated Press
Takuma Sato celebrates after winning the IndyCar auto race Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Madison, Ill. — Takuma Sato held off Ed Carpenter to win the IndyCar race Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway.

Sato won by 0.399 seconds. Tony Kaanan was third, followed by Santino Ferrucci and Simon Pagenaud.

Sato’s second victory of the season comes on the heels of his highly scrutinized move on the first lap at Pocono last week that helped trigger a major accident.

“After the difficult circumstances and coming here … the win is so big,” said Sato, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion. “We came back. Of course we had some luck. It was tough the last five laps with the tire degradation. But I couldn’t throw this away after the tough circumstances.

“I just wanted to bring the car home, which we did. This win is so special, this is just so emotionally to do it.”

Pole-sitter and series points leader Josef Newgarden spun coming out of Turn 4 of the last lap and finished seventh.

“We actually missed a bit (on the setup) in the long run,” Newgarden said. “Our setup didn’t favor the tires for the long run. I thought we were in the right window last night. But we learned tonight we weren’t for the longevity.”

Newgarden extended his points lead over teammate Pagenaud. Newgarden has 563 points to Pagenaud’s 525. Alexander Rossi is third with 517.

Sato led 61 laps and denied Team Penske a sweep of the ovals this season. He also raced to a sorely needed win for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

Defending race champion Will Power finished last after he crashed in Turn 4 of lap 54.

Bell wins Xfinity race

Christopher Bell knows he must master the art of road course racing to make the jump to the next level of NASCAR, even if it might never be his favorite kind of track.

Bell took a big step in that direction, surging ahead on a late restart to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Road America — the first of his career on a road course.

Does that change anything in terms of his relationship to road racing, a source of frustration in the past?

“Not really,” Bell said. “It’s not my favorite style of racing, just because I just had a really, really bad experience last year.”

Austin Cindric finished second at the 4.048-mile road course in central Wisconsin, followed by Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson and Kaz Grala.

The last two laps were shaping up as a showdown between Bell and veteran road-course ace AJ Allmendinger. But Allmendinger spun his tires on the restart, then briefly couldn’t get his car into gear. From there, he went off course twice and finished 24th.

“On the final restart, I knew my only chance was to hopefully catch him on the restart, be side-by-side with him down in the corner and try to get by him,” Allmendinger said. “They had such a good launch — he hit the throttle and I just spun the tires. And when I spun the tires, I kind of went into panic mode knowing that he was already gone, and (Reddick) got by me.”

Cindric was on an alternate pit strategy from most of the field at the end of the race and nearly charged all the way up to challenge Bell for the win. After making a late pit stop, he fell back to 20th — but on new tires, he sliced through the field to finish second.

“We needed one more lap at least,” Cindric said. “I knew it was going to be hairy to have just two to go.”

It was the sixth win of the season for Bell. And, he expects more to come.

“I think we’re capable of winning every time we go to the racetrack,” Bell said.