IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Takuma Sato

AP
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the driver-by-driver field in the Verizon IndyCar Series with 14th-placed Takuma Sato, driver of the flagship No. 14 car for A.J. Foyt Enterprises.

Takuma Sato, No. 14 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda

  • 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
  • 2015: 14th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 46 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 13.8 Avg. Finish

Sato was better than most people will have realized in 2015, and he didn’t have a lot of results to go along with what was probably his best season in three with A.J. Foyt Enterprises. After finishing 17th in points in 2013 and 18th last year, he improved to 14th this year. The problem for the Japanese fan favorite is that in a field this deep, it becomes really hard to stand out, and 14th doesn’t necessarily scream “look at me” on paper.

But perhaps that was a good thing. Sato, who’s been maligned for his DNFs in the past, had only four in 2015 (down from eight in 2013 and seven last year), and only two via accidents (Fontana, Iowa). Sage Karam opted to put the blame on Sato for their first lap contact at the Indianapolis 500, but with Karam the meat in a Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay sandwich, realistically it was a racing incident where all drivers needed to give and take. Even with the contact, Sato rebounded to a respectable 13th place finish.

Sato’s best result was a second in Detroit race two, which provided a welcome return to the podium for the first time since Brazil 2013, when he lost the win at the last corner. Like last year, he ended the season with back-to-back top-10 results, sixth and eighth at Pocono and Sonoma. More impressively, in a year when Honda drivers struggled to make the Firestone Fast Six, Sato and Hunter-Reay were the only Honda drivers to make it twice.

Perhaps having a second car aided Sato, who stepped up as team leader in the Larry Foyt-led team with second-year driver Jack Hawksworth on board. He’s been on a single car team for the last three years, two at Foyt and in his single exciting year at Rahal Letterman Lanigan in 2012. Sato’s done a very nice job of correcting course the last two years, and is a steady fixture with Foyt, planning to continue once again into 2016.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.