Some things just get better with age. That applies to drivers in the NTT IndyCar Series as well.
Takuma Sato is a 12-year IndyCar veteran that joined the series after seven seasons in Formula One. The Japanese driver has made 186 career starts in IndyCar, and while he has only six victories to his name, he has earned them on the biggest stage.
In addition to winning the Indianapolis 500 twice, Sato made his first trip to victory lane at the sport’s most iconic street course race. Winning the 2013 Long Beach Grand Prix was a monumental moment for both he and AJ Foyt Racing.
Sato had long runs with both Foyt and KV Racing but spent the 2017 season with Andretti Autosport, where he earned his first Indy 500 win. He joined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing the following year and has been there ever since. It wasn’t his first stint with RLL, driving for them during the 2012 season.
It is safe to say that Sato has found a home at RLL, and they have fully embraced him. While he struggled to find his groove early in his IndyCar career, he has blossomed as a member of the RLL team.
In his 51 races with RLL, Sato has collected four wins, eight podium finishes, three poles, and led 404 total laps. He has improved his final position in the championship standings every year, from 12th to 9th, to a career-best 7th last season.
The start to the 2021 season hasn’t been ideal for Sato, but he has shown well at St Petersburg and had another top-ten finish in one race at Texas, and led laps in the other. The IMS road course has never been his best track but with that now in the rearview mirror, he can turn his full attention to the oval. A third victory in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing would put him in illustrious company.
Sato would not only become the 11th driver to win the race at least three times, but he would also be just the sixth driver to have consecutive victories, joining Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Bill Vukovich, Al Unser Sr, and Helio Castroneves. The win would also be the fourth for team owner Bobby Rahal, who has one as a driver and two as an owner. The only driver/owner with more is AJ Foyt, who has five total.
Now as a two-time and defending Indy 500 winner, Sato entered the Month of May with a sense of real optimism.
Just looking at his record at Indianapolis, it is hard to bet against Sato. He has made 11 starts and his recent results are quite impressive. Excluding the 2018 race when he was caught in a crash, his last three finishes are 1st, 3rd, and 1st. He qualified on the front row last year and has led a total of 78 laps at Indy.
It is not a stretch to consider that Sato could very easily be a three-time winner. The epic duel between Takuma and Dario Franchitti at the end of the 2012 race was phenomenal to watch, but it was heartbreak for Sato. He went for it, on the final lap of the biggest race in the world, and it simply just didn’t work out in his favor. He was there though, and that should be telling.
Ironically enough, Franchitti’s victory in that 2012 race made him a three-time winner. Nine years later, Sato has the opportunity to join Helio Castroneves as the only two active drivers with three wins. Should he accomplish the feat once again, he would be the only full-time driver with three victories.
We all know the saying. “No attack, no chance.” They are words that Sato lives by, and something everyone should appreciate. We should all strive to have that same mentality in our everyday lives.