The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team has publicly defended their driver Takuma Sato in the wake of criticism stemming from the five-car crash on the opening lap of the ABC Supply 500 at the Pocono Raceway.

Heading into Turn 2 of the 2.5-mile superspeedway, the driver of the No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda made contact with Alexander Rossi which swept up fellow Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay and eventually collected Felix Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe. Rosenqvist briefly rode the catch fencing while Sato ended upside down.

All drivers walked away without major injuries.

The incident took place at the same location one year ago where Robert Wickens was left paralyzed from the waist down.

Rossi called the move “disgraceful” while the Japanese driver apologized for the accident but wanted to analyze all of the data before making a judgement.

The Indianapolis-based team released the following statement and posted an onboard video on social media showing the accident:

“Following the events on Lap 1 of Sunday’s INDYCAR race at Pocono Raceway, we are relieved that all drivers emerged unhurt from the crash. Normally in a situation of this nature it is not necessary for a team to comment but following the accusations levied at Takuma Sato, and after reviewing Takuma’s onboard data and camera, we feel that a clarification is necessary.  The data and video clearly shows that Takuma did not turn down the track into Alexander in this incident and in fact the first steering wheel movement made by Takuma was to the right, as he tried to correct his car after the initial contact. 

“This sort of accident is part and parcel of this type of racing and with track position being vital at every stage of each race is, in our view, a part of the sport.  It’s a racing incident and we as a team wish to publicly state that we stand behind our drivers and have absolute faith in their ability to race and perform at the highest level for RLL.

“This was a racing incident which unfortunately may have some championship implications. A crash at Pocono impacted our title aspirations in 2015 while second in the standings so we know the frustration drivers and teams experienced.  As always, we are thankful for the quick response of the AMR Safety Team.”