The first Japanese driver to win an NTT IndyCar Series race matched the triumph for his fourth time in a dominant journey from the pole position to victory lane at Barber Motorsports Park for Takuma Sato.
After taking the green flag alongside his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing stablemate Graham Rahal, Sato maintained control of the second road course race of 2019 through his pit stops at the end of Laps 17, 37 and 57.
The top fourth of the 24-car field never let Sato pull an excessively large gap, particularly after contact at the entrance to pit lane between Tony Kanaan and Max Chilton brought out the event’s lone full-course yellow and eliminated gaps between competitors.
A fresh set of red-sidewalled Firestone alternate tires were fitted to Sato’s No. 30 Mi-Jack- and Panasonic-branded Honda for the opening stint, followed by two consecutive runs on scuffed blacks. Sato took his final 32 tours of the picturesque road course on a set of fresh black-sidewalled rubber, finalizing a tire strategy nearly identical to that of Scott Dixon who used fresh blacks for his middle two stints.
Dixon ultimately improved one position over his third-place starting spot, securing his sixth second-place result at Barber by a margin of 2.3874 seconds behind his fellow veteran Sato.
Sato’s fourth victory follows his wins at Long Beach in 2013, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017 and Portland International Raceway in 2018. Factoring in Sato’s performance, the Barber pole sitter has gone on to win the race in 50% of IndyCar’s 10 races at the venue.
Yet another second place for Dixon in Birmingham, Alabama was followed on the racetrack by Sebastien Bourdais’ first trip to the podium in his ninth visit. The four-time open-wheel racing champion took the checkered flag 2.7933 seconds in arrears of Sato.
Josef Newgarden finished just over five seconds back from the leader in fourth — his first finish worse than first or second in 2019. As the top-finishing representative for Chevrolet and Team Penske, Newgarden retained his lead in the championship standings through three rounds.
James Hinchcliffe’s consistent speed throughout the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama weekend translated into a sixth-place finish over his teammate Marcus Ericsson plus Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Felix Rosenqvist in the top 10.
Rahal was unable to share in the success Sato brought to RLL on the third race day of the year, finishing 35 laps down after retiring early with throttle issues. Colton Herta became the sport’s youngest winner last time out at Circuit of The Americas but fared one position worse than Rahal, ending the day scored last due to fuel pressure problems for his Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda.
The 10th Barber race set the stage for the newly named Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach which will bring the premier North American open-wheel championship to Southern California on the weekend of April 12–14.