By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
MADISON, Ill. — Countless hours of examination by racing fans, drivers and other experts on Twitter on last week’s opening lap accident at Pocono Raceway can be a drain on anybody but no longer for Takuma Sato.
“The important thing is to understand what happened, the facts and try to make it how we can improve, that’s the most important thing,” said Sato. “Obviously we did not want to see that happen, but it happened, whatever the reason I think the important thing is that we’ve moved on but not forget about it, just try to make progress. That’s how I think we all believe we can learn from that.”
Qualifying fifth fastest for Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway gave Sato tremendous confidence ahead of the 248-lap race. However, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner had to put Pocono in the rear view mirror to maximize every opportunity at Gateway.
With everybody putting last week under a microscope, Sato, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay have had to deal with intense scrutiny about the incident. With Gateway being only a week later, Sato had to get into a right frame of mind before practice started on Friday. When the Japanese driver got into the car Friday morning, the accident was firmly in the rear view mirror.
“The team put out a statement and there’s a lot of people supporting myself and see the facts of what was happening, and of course a lot of support from the team. I’m really fortunate to be in a position to have so much support from the team.
“Of course until you get back in the car, you always have a little drama and I was upside down and it wasn’t a nice moment but this morning I think we made good progress and everything is behind, I’m focusing on this weekend.”
Sato was eighth fastest in opening practice and fourth fastest in the warmup on Friday night on a track which pretty much is an intermediate version of Pocono. With two corners of different radii and banking, it’s half the size of Pocono with almost all of the speed.
Sato said his car was great in the Friday morning practice session which was better than how the car had handled last year. Last year’s qualifying at Gateway was washed out by rain.
“I was quite looking forward to this morning and having exciting qualifications because this track is so challenging so I love it.
“I think the fans really enjoy brutal, high speed super speedways like Pocono to come here at a short oval but yet your cornering speeds are amazing. You’re pulling over four g’s over there, it’s just an incredible feeling.”