Takuma Sato scheduled for 200th IndyCar career start at Texas

With a new season of NTT IndyCar Series competition underway, Takuma Sato is primed to reach a milestone start in his 12th full-time in America’s premier open-wheel series. By taking the green flag in this weekend’s XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway, the newly named driver of the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Dallara-Honda will achieve career start No. 200 in the IndyCar circuit. 

A native of Tokyo, Japan, Sato made his inaugural presence in IndyCar competition in 2010 when he signed with KV Racing Technology. By then, he had campaigned in seven full-time seasons in Formula One competition (2002-2008) between Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri. Driving the No. 5 Dallara-Honda for KV Racing Technology, Sato started 10th but finished 22nd in his IndyCar debut after being involved in an opening lap multi-car wreck. Sato competed the entire 17-race schedule, where he earned his first top-10 career result in ninth place at Edmonton City Centre Airport in July before settling in 21st place in the final standings,

Remaining at KV Racing Technology for the 2011 IndyCar season, Sato earned three top-five results, a season-best fourth-place result at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August and his maiden two poles (Iowa Speedway and Edmonton in July) before finishing in 13th place in the final standings.

Following his first two years in IndyCar competition with KV Racing Technology, Sato joined Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for the 2012 season. After finishing no higher than eighth during the first three scheduled events, Sato claimed his maiden podium after finishing third at the Streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. During the following event, the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he was running within striking distance of Dario Franchitti for the victory. At the start of the final lap, Sato made his move beneath Franchitti, but both made contact and resulted with Sato spinning and crashing into the wall, which ended the event under caution. While Franchitti went on to win, Sato ended up in 17th place. For the remaining 10 events of the season, Sato claimed a career-best result of second place at Edmonton in July before finishing in 14th place in the final standings. 

In 2013, Sato joined forces with A.J. Foyt Enterprises after departing Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. After finishing no higher than eighth during the first two events, he claimed his maiden IndyCar victory at California’s Long Beach Street Circuit in April after leading 50 of 80 scheduled laps. The victory, which occurred in his 52nd career start, made Sato the first Japanese competitor to win in the IndyCar circuit. Sato then came close in capturing back-to-back victories of the season at Sao Paulo until he was overtaken by James Hinchcliffe on the final lap and final corner, which relegated him back to second place. Despite briefly taking over the points lead, a series of inconsistent results resulted with Sato finishing in 17th place in the final standings. 

From 2014 to 2016, Sato earned a single podium result, which was a runner-up result in the second of a Belle Isle doubleheader weekend in May, a total of two poles and a best points result of 14th place in 2015. By then, he surpassed 100 career starts in the IndyCar Series.

Following a four-year run with A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Sato joined Andretti Autosport to pilot the No. 26 Honda on a full-time basis in 2017. Through the first five events of the season, his best on-track result was fifth place during the season-opening Streets of St. Petersburg in March. Then during the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, Sato overtook Max Chilton for the lead with nine laps remaining and fended off three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves to claim his second IndyCar career victory and become the first Japanese competitor to win the Indy 500. He then went on to claim two poles during the final 11 scheduled events before finishing in the top 10 in points for the first time in his career in eighth place.

Despite the success at Andretti, Sato reunited with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing to pilot the No. 30 Honda for the 2018 season. After enduring a season-long up-and-down run, where his lone highlight was claiming a podium result (third place) at Iowa Speedway in July, he claimed his third IndyCar career victory in the series’ decade-long return to Portland International Raceway in September. Ultimately, he concluded the season in 12th place in the final standings.

The 2019 IndyCar season was where Sato earned multiple victories in an IndyCar season for the first time in his career. He claimed an early victory at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park in April and earned two additional podiums during the following 10 scheduled events before winning at Gateway’s World Wide Technology Raceway in August. With a career-high two victories and career-high four podiums to the 2019 season, Sato capped off the season in ninth place in the final standings.

During the shortened 2020 season amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Sato claimed his second Indianapolis 500 victory in August following a late battle against five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. To add a second-place result at Gateway during the following event, he concluded the season in a career-best seventh place in the final standings and with a career-best average-finishing result of 11.3. 

The 2021 season marked the first time Sato went winless and failed to secure a podium result as the Japanese veteran picked up a season-best fourth place during the first of a Belle Isle doubleheader weekend in June before finishing in 11th place in the final standings and earning an average-finishing result of 12.2.

The 2022 IndyCar season marked a new beginning for Sato, who joined Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing following a four-year run with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He is coming off a 10th-place run in his first event with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at the Streets of St. Petersburg.

Through 199 previous IndyCar starts, Sato has achieved six victories, 10 poles, 14 podiums and an average-finishing result of 14.3.

Sato is scheduled to make his 200th NTT IndyCar Series career start in the XPEL 375 at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, March 20, at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com


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