BELLE ISLE, Mich — Takuma Sato made some enemies on Saturday, but he doesn’t care. Sato, started 16th and was on the right strategy when he found himself battling for a podium finish in the end of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Sato, passed Rinus VeeKay for third with seven laps remaining. He was sitting there chasing down Will Power and Marcus Ericsson before the caution came out for Romain Grosjean on Lap 64. They’d red flag the race with him in third. Could he really win this race?
Well, Will Power’s car didn’t refire on pit lane and he moved from third to second on the ensuing restart. Unfortunately, his tires struggled for grip on that restart as he slid from second to fourth in the closing laps. Still, it was his first top five of the season and a much needed momentum boost for him heading into Sunday’s race 2.
Graham Rahal and Santino Ferrucci pounced in the end and came up to come home fifth and sixth respectively. If you told them they’d put three cars in the top six before the race, they would have probably looked at you kind of funny. They may have had good race cars, but they didn’t have good starting spots on a track that’s difficult to pass on.
See, they struggled in qualifying. Sato started 16th, Rahal 20th and Ferrucci in 21st. Sato pitted with Will Power’s group as he first hit pit lane on Lap 18. Rahal and Ferrucci were running their opening stint long. They got caught out on that frightening Lap 25 caution though.
Still, both had varying strategies and it paid off.
Ferrucci, ran the Firestone alternates 27 laps. It paid off in the sense that he had a great race car and was there in the end to pass everyone back and is 2-for-2 in top 10’s this season.
Rahal, went with primary tires on his first two stints. That meant he was the only one on Red tires at the end. That also paid off. The red tires are quicker and that Rahal was in the end in comparison to everyone else.
He pit on Lap 53 for red tires. Everyone else was pitting between laps 43-48. Rahal was among the last to pit and had a shorter final stint than most. That’s how he got away with his strategy and with skill and talent there he was earning his fourth top five in the last five races run. In fact, if not for an unfortunate racing incident with Alexander Rossi in St. Pete and for his tire literally coming off while exiting the pits at Indy, he’d have a top seven result in literally every race run this season.
Rahal, is there. If luck would go his way, then watch out. Don’t count him out just yet. Hell, all three RLL cars now at that. In the end, they had the three best cars at the time of the checkered flag.