Takuma Sato hopes Road America provides a favorable turnabout

IndyCar
2 Comments

It is amazing what one race can do for a driver. At least, that is what Takuma Sato hopes will happen after his fourth-place run at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

After all, 2017’s Road America race proved to be a turning point in his season.

“We had a fast car,” Sato said after the race. “It’s a shame that we missed the podium, but we need to find a little more speed.”

It is the kind of thing said after pretty much any race, but this time his podium near-miss could be a precursor of better results on the horizon.

Coming on the heels of a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, this is Sato’s best back-to-back pairing all season. He had consecutive top-10s at Barber Motorsports Park and in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix, but those were an eighth and 10th respectively. Sato has one other top-five for the season, but his fifth at the Raceway at Belle Isle was bracketed by an accident in the Indy 500 and a 17th in the second Belle Isle race.

Last year’s turnabout was not favorable. Road America marked only the third time that he finished outside the top 15 and the juxtaposition of his 19th in 2017 to his fourth this year adds to the feeling of success this time around.

“We struggled at the beginning of the season and lost too much ground, but Graham (Rahal) and I are working close with the engineering side and shared a lot of stuff and picked up speed,” Sato said.

Through the first eight races of 2018 compared to 2017, Sato had an average finish of 14.5 versus 9.1. With his current back-to-back top-10s credited to 2018, the average shrinks to 12.7 versus 10.2. And if one mentally subtracts his Indy 500 crash, Sato’s 2018 average of 10.6 is virtually the same this year as last.

Last year, Sato was fourth in the points standings at this juncture. In 2018, he languishes in 13th.

Sato needs to guard against what happened in 2017 in the final stretch. His 19th-place finish at Road America was one of six times that he finished outside the top 15 in the closing eight races. Two of these (an accident at Gateway Motorsports Park and an engine failure at Sonoma Raceway) were DNFs.

The end to his season was made even more frustrating by the fact that he qualified 10th or better in all but one of the final eight races – including a pole at Pocono Raceway.

Based on his qualification results, Sato found the speed he was looking for in 2017.

Now, he needs some good fortune to go with it.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media
0 Comments

ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.