Former grand prix driver Takuma Sato said he reveled in his oval racing debut at Kansas on Saturday, even though it ended with a collision with Hideki Mutoh as they fought for top-five positions.
Sato only had a single oval test before his first speedway race last weekend, but was able to charge into the top six for KV Racing. He was chasing Newman/Haas driver Mutoh for fifth when they tangled as both tried to go around the outside of Simona de Silvestro's lapped HVM car at the final restart 13 laps from the end, with Sato's left-front wheel hitting Mutoh's right rear and turning both toward the wall.
"There was a pack in front on the restart while I was racing Hideki side by side," said Sato. "It looked like he was pushing up to the wall and I had nowhere to go.
"After having a conversation with Hideki, he was being pushed up into me by the lapped orange car. We both had nowhere to go. It's very, very unfortunate. I feel bad for the fans, particularly for all of the Japanese fans and all of Hideki's fans."
Mutoh put the crash down to confusion in traffic and did not blame Sato. "Taku was on the outside, but in the last turn a car was also on the inside and it came up, so there was nowhere to go," said Mutoh. "This is very unfortunate, because we had a very good race up to that point and I didn't want to crash Taku, because I respect him a lot.
"Top three would have been difficult but fourth place was possible. It's is a shame we ended the race early."
Despite the accident, Sato felt he had acquitted himself well and enjoyed the experience.
"It was a very exciting day for me being my first race oval race," he said. "The KV Racing Technology Lotus Team did a fantastic job. It's just frustrating and I'm very disappointed not to finish. However, I really enjoyed racing with many great drivers and gaining a lot of positions as well as understanding how oval racing works."
The IZOD IndyCar Series is now into a swing of four consecutive oval races, with the Indianapolis 500, Texas and Iowa to come before the next road course event at Watkins Glen in July.