IndyCar Driver Review: Takuma Sato

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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the field of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup. Eighteenth was Takuma Sato, who endured a miserable run of luck throughout the season.

2014 SEASON PREVIEW

Takuma Sato

  • Team: A.J. Foyt Enterprises
  • 2013: 17th Place, 1 Win, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 187 Laps Led, 12.6 Avg. Start, 16.0 Avg. Finish
  • 2014: 18th Place, Best Finish 4th, 2 Poles, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 66 Laps Led, 12.6 Avg. Start, 15.5 Avg. Finish

Like Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato weirdly had a better 2014 than 2013, yet also suffered a one-spot dropoff in the points (17th to 18th). It was just due to a miserable midseason, where luck was not his friend, that he lost out on a bevy of potential good results.

The period of undoing occurred from the Indianapolis 500 through Toronto race one, where Sato finished: 19, 18, 18, 18, 22, 19, 22, 22, and 23. He ran top-five in several of those races – the ‘500 required a late pit stop, he was on the receiving end of contact in Detroit despite a pole, he starred while leading in Houston race one before his and Mikhail Aleshin’s contact, and qualified fourth at Pocono. Yet the results went begging.

Things improved, fortuitously, for the tail end of the year with finishes of fourth and sixth in the last two races in California. That at least brought him back to 18th in the points when at one point this year, he ranked lowest of all full-time drivers – again, through almost no fault of his own.

It remained a frustrating campaign because the speed was there (he had two poles), the excitement was there (Houston was amazing to watch), the mistakes were reduced, and yet the results largely weren’t there. I like Sato both as a person and with the excitement he brings to IndyCar, and so it was tough to see that spirit of his go unrewarded more often than not.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”