Could runner-up finish at Detroit start turnaround for Sato?


Last season and the first seven races of the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season have taken Takuma Sato on quite a roller-coaster ride.

In other words and in most cases, it’s been a story of one week up, and usually the next week down.

But it took rain, a crazy weekend and a twisting road course in the eighth race of 2015 to bring out some of the best in Sato on Sunday in the 2015 Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit No. 2, as the A.J. Foyt Racing driver finished a close second to winner Sebastien Bourdais.

“It was real close,” Sato said of the finish. “But I think we done most of what we could today, come back from the middle of the pack to finishing strong.”

It was Sato’s best finish since a runner-up showing more than two years ago at Sao Paulo, Brazil. His previous best finish this season was ninth in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis last month.

“I’m really pleased to be back in here on the podium,” Sato said after Sunday’s race. “Yes, it was long and exciting. To be honest, it was crazy race for two days.”

And the height of craziness came late in Sunday’s race, when the red flag fell for a major crash. Then, as cleanup took place, IndyCar officials converted the race from a distance event to a timed finish.

Think of it as IndyCar’s version of a green-white-checkered event, as there were only three laps run before the checkered flag fell, with Bourdais finishing first and Sato right behind him.

Bourdais essentially doing a stutter step on the restart, which jammed up the rest of the pack, caused concern among drivers, including Sato.

“Obviously I wanted to win the race, but I think Sebastien restart (on Lap 66) was a little tricky. That really caught out Montoya, too. We should do steady acceleration from last corner. We all had to brake, which is not really what we talk about for the briefing.

“I leave it to IndyCar’s call for the regulations. But nevertheless, Seb did a good job of holding off. I try to go for the win for the rest of the season, of course.”

Once the pack finally got going, Sato did everything he could to catch and pass Bourdais, but the latter just had a better run in the closing laps.

“To be honest, it was difficult,” Sato said. “The restart was a great chance. Once get into the rhythm, I think he had a really fast car today, so he really – how can I say – has got a winner.

“I tried to catch him, try to overtake him. I had one chance on the back straight to come to white flag. Into turn seven it’s tricky. … If completely dry, I would commit to go side-by-side. But it was too risky. Obviously he did the holding line really well.

“I really disagree on his restart manipulation technique. Obviously other than that, he’s done everything he could. He’s the real winner today. (It’s a) shame, but I try next time.”

And there was one other consolation Sato could take: “No Penske, Ganassi on the podium,” he said. They’re the big teams, tough to beat. But I think, as I said, nothing is impossible. This is part of this great sport to give opportunity. I really love it.”

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Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor “It is great for to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”