Verizon IndyCar Series drivers were asked to rank the five most interesting storylines leading into the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that opens the 2017 season on March 12. Today, we feature the second of those five.
No. 4: Takuma Sato tries his hand at Andretti Autosport
Fast fact: Takuma Sato’s speed driving a race car has never been questioned.
What’s at hand: The chance to convert that speed into consistent results now that he is employed by one of the strongest and deepest Verizon IndyCar Series teams.
Sato’s record shows just one race win in seven Verizon IndyCar Series seasons – 2013 at Long Beach with AJ Foyt Racing – but with all due respect to the teams owned by Kevin Kalkhoven, Bobby Rahal and A.J. Foyt, Sato has never had an infrastructure supporting him like Andretti Autosport.
Sato will have the most experienced supporting cast of his career – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Alexander Rossi have combined to win 19 races, two Indianapolis 500s and a series championship – and the team has been ridiculously strong at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in recent years. Rossi and Carlos Munoz finished 1-2 for Michael Andretti in last year’s 500 (and Hunter-Reay and Townsend Bell may have been the fastest cars until they collided in pit lane midway through the race). The team has helped four drivers earn the right to drink from the traditional bottle of milk (Dan Wheldon, Dario Franchitti, Hunter-Reay and Rossi).
Sato had a shot to win Indy in 2012 before crashing in Turn 1 on the last-lap passing attempt on Franchitti. The speed was there; finishing was the problem.
Now, Sato seemingly has everything he needs. He has a chance to finish in the top 12 in the point standings for the first time in his career. Can he? His rivals are interested to find out.
Tomorrow: No. 3 on the list.