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IndyCar: Sato to return to RLL in 2019

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Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing announced on Sunday that Takuma Sato would return to the team for 2019 IndyCar Series season.

Sato re-joined the team in 2018 – he drove for them back in 2012 – and the combination of Sato and RLL scored a win at the Grand Prix of Portland. The 2019 season will be Sato’s third overall with RLL.

“I’m very pleased that we were able to come to terms to extend Takuma’s contract,” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “He has always been very popular around the team whether he was driving for us or not so therefore it makes it even more special to have him continue with us after this season. We have had some good success with Takuma and the potential was there for even more.  The team has really gelled around him. His guys have done a great job as the season has progressed and of course Portland showed that. It allows us to keep the continuity and good spirit going at the team to try to get even more wins and strong results in 2019.”

Sato echoed Rahal’s sentiments, and similarly believes that he and teammate Graham Rahal can battle for more race wins in 2019.

“I am really pleased to be back with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2019,” added Takuma Sato.  “Bobby, (team co-owner David Letterman) and Mike have done a fantastic job at putting together a great team and environment around me. I believe that Graham and I have everything we need to be consistent race winners and compete for the IndyCar championship. I could not be happier.”

Sato enters the season-ending INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma 11th in the championship standings.

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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

IndyCar.com
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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”