Takuma Sato has claimed his fourth IndyCar win after taking victory in Barber. The Japanese driver started from Pole, had to overcome some errors and led almost every lap to take a dominant win. Dixon finishes second with Bourdais completing the podium with a different strategy. Newgarden finishes fourth and holds the standings lead.
The race got underway with both Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing on the front. Takuma Sato held his lead from Graham Rahal, who defended his position well from Scott Dixon. Some positions changed on the mid and back of the pack, but there was no major incidents or damage to any car. But Ed Jones, who had impressively moved up from P21 to P4, was given a penalty for jumping the start.
The backmarkers who started the race with red (soft) tyres were the first to stop for fuel and tyres. Will Power was the first among the Top 10 who pitted. Alexander Rossi, who started the race with black (hard) tyres, was the man who made up more places at the early stages of the race as he moved from eighth to fifth.
On lap 15, some water patches appeared at different points of the track. The race at RLL went down when their drivers pitted. Sato lost his gap to Dixon on an awful pit stop, with problems on the left rear. Rahal had bigger problems on his stop and ended up on 16th place with few drivers yet to stop.
After this first stint, Sato held the lead with less than one second between him and Dixon. They were followed by James Hinchcliffe, Power, Alex Rossi, Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Rossi passed Newgarden for fourth. Later, the Aussie made contact with his team-mate Newgarden when the 2017 champion tried to pass Power. The nº.12 ended up losing control of the car and spinning. The tyres were on critical condition and he had to pit again.
Sébastien Bourdais was on the lead, he was, however, yet to stop. It seemed that the Dale Coyne driver was going on an alternative strategy as he stopped at lap 28. The latest Indycar winner, Colton Herta, retired the car due to engine issues. On lap 34, Newgarden was the first driver on the lead strategy to pit for the second time as he was losing places.
There were some position changes when the leaders pitted. Hinchcliffe moved up to second and Bourdais was between him and Dixon in third. The alternate strategy seemed to be working. The Canadian SPM racing driver lost 2 places to both Bourdais and Dixon.
On lap 57, Rahal’s car stopped on the back straight for mechanical issues. All drivers pitted as a yellow could wave at any moment. A misunderstanding on pit entry between Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton ended up with the Brit in the wall. The yellow waited until everyone pitted to fly.
With the first caution of the race, the order was Sato, Dixon, Bourdais, Hinchcliffe, Rossi. The Franch Dale Coyne driver used the yellow to switch to the lead strategy. The green waved on lap 66 and there were no position changes on the lead group. Newgarden passed Hunter-Reay for sixth as Hinchcliffe lost two places on the following lap, to Rossi and Newgarden. Hunter-Reay also lost his seventh place to Marcus Ericsson.
Sato, the leader, had opened a small gap to Dixon, who was being slowed down by Matheus Leist, who was a lap down. The situation remained steady for several laps and nothing relevant happened until lap 86, when Sato ran wide and went on to the grass, losing his gap to Dixon, who was now closer. Newgarden overtook Rossi for P4.
This mistake was not enough and the lead remained unchanged. Sato took in Barber his fourth career win and the first one this season. He dominated the race and managed to lead the majority of the laps despite problems on his first stop. Dixon gets a good result but finishes another season without winning in Alabama. Bourdais completes the podium and gets his best result this season after reaching the lead group thanks to an alternative strategy. Newgarden, Rossi, Hinchcliffe, Ericsson, Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Felix Rosenqvist complete the Top 10.
These results leave Newgarden still on the standings lead. He sits first with 125 points, but Dixon moves up to 2nd with 98 points and closes the gap to the leader. Sato is third with 91 points, followed by Rossi with 84 and Herta with 81. Next week, IndyCar Series will visit Long Beach, one of its most iconic venues, for the fourth round of the championship.