IndyCar paddock moves on from Pocono debate

IndyCar drivers are largely ready to stop talking about the first lap crash that marred Pocono on Sunday.

The IndyCar community is ready to move on from the first lap incident at Pocono Raceway last weekend.

Friday afternoon at Gateway marked the first time the paddock had converged since spending the week dissecting and legislating a five-car pileup that began when Takuma Sato took Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay three-wide — the resulting crash also collecting Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe.

The crash, which resulted in no serious injuries, was blamed on everything from Sato’s driving style to Pocono’s compatibility with the modern IndyCar Series.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing even sent out a rare midweek statement in support of its driver, including a link to Sato’s on-board video, an effort to prove that he didn’t veer left into Rossi and Hunter-Reay.

Sato was adamant that he kept his car pointed straight towards the Tunnel Turn and that the Andretti Autosport teammates drifted up into him. It was arguably the most analyzed incident in the recent history of IndyCar to not feature a serious injury.

Sato is just relieved, and perhaps vindicated, by evidence that took a degree of criticism off his shoulders.

“Honestly, I just wanted people to know what happened and what are the facts,” Sato told Autoweek after qualifying on Friday. “I wanted people to see what happened before judging.

“With today’s television, we can react very quickly, which unfortunately, led to a lot of bad fire after the race. Of course, we can always improve. We can learn from it. No one wants to see that happen. I think we can now understand what happened very clearly now. I appreciated the team’s statement. I’m very fortunate to have their support. We’ll learn from it and we can focus on this weekend.”

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Hunter-Reay said he wanted to see the replay before commenting. Having seen all the available video evidence, Hunter-Reay was still adamant that Sato was in some degree culpable.

“Takuma was third man in, he was the aggressor on that,” Hunter-Reay told NBC. “I gave Alex plenty of room. I think from the time you exit Turn 1 as you are going into Turn 2, we take our natural line we take on any lap which is you exit up by the wall, come down to the left and then arc it back up to the right to set up for the corner.

“But as Takuma said in his interview immediately after the accident when you get the clearest, most unbiased response from drivers, he said he thought he was clear. He was coming down and it looked that way, too. Maybe his spotter told him he was clear, or he misjudged it and thought he was clear.”

The crash left Sato upside down on top of Hunter-Reay’s car, briefly sent Rosenqvist to the hospital for further evaluation and deeply impacted Rossi’s championship hopes.

Rossi was 16 points out of the championship lead entering the weekend at Pocono and is now 35 back with three races remaining.

When asked if he had any additional thoughts after reviewing the video evidence posted over the past week, Rossi declined to comment and said he was focused on the remaining races.

Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate, agreed with that sentiment but in much stronger terms.

“I’m not commenting on it,” Rahal said. “I think we wasted way too much time on this. It’s been a week. We’re at Gateway. We need to get beyond it. Things happen. Here we are. That’s my personal opinion. I see stuff out on social media still today.

“There’s a million ways you can look at it. At this point who cares. Just move forward.”

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