Sato seeks complete weekend for Foyt

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Takuma Sato has not perhaps gotten the credit he’s deserved for his fast start to the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season with A.J. Foyt Racing.

With a front row start in St. Petersburg and what would have been a second straight Firestone Fast Six appearance in Barber, before a penalty for blocking, Sato’s been one of the quickest drivers to start the year.

There’s still more room for improvement, though, he admits.

“We’re all pushing the max all the time,” he said Thursday. “It’s good the field is so competitive. The team is finding extra bits, and going to the limit. It shows we are really pushing each other.”

On paper, the combination of the legendary Texan owner and the diminutive veteran Japanese driver seems the “odd couple,” but Sato and team have gelled well.

“We have had good integration from the first test at Sebring, which was very successful,” Sato said. “We built our relationship. It’s been very smooth at St. Pete. After then we knew what to do better, because the speed was there.”

A year ago in Long Beach, Sato was on course for his first career podium in IndyCar before contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap. With a good street course package, Sato looks to complete the deal this weekend.

“It’s just faster now, and we like it,” Sato said of Firestone’s 2013 tire compounds. “There is some little construction change, and a balance shift we have to accommodate. We find good pace on them and still looking for extra pace from tests. We just need to make sure there is no bad luck happening and compete really well!”

 

 

 

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”