Sato Joins Coyne/Rick Ware Racing

Image from Dale Coyne Twitter

It’s not a complete surprise, but two time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will drive car 51 for Dale Coyne for Rick Ware Racing in 2022. The car had Romain Grosjean behind the wheel last season. We are still waiting for Coyne to confirm David Malukas in the 18, likely in apartnership with Global HMD, Malukas’s father’s company . The announcement earlier this week that Vasser-Sullivan would not return I think is somewhat of a confirmation.

The announcement from Coyne:

Plainfield, IL (Thursday, December 9, 2021) – Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing has signed two-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Takuma Sato to drive its #51 Honda powered entry for the entire 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Dale, Rick and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing,” shared Sato. “With Honda an integral part of Dale Coyne Racing, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are very competitive on all types of circuits.

“Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were very impressive. I am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”

Sato brings 12 years of NTT INDYCAR SERIES experience with him to the team. In his 198 starts, he has finished on the podium 14 times and has six wins, including his two Indianapolis 500 victories. The 44-year-old driver has also started on pole position 10 times, has led 896 laps and has 70 top 10 finishes.

“Takuma has shown that he is one of the best drivers to ever race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Winning the famed Indianapolis 500 twice, we look forward to competing with our package of a good car with a great driver in the 500 next year. All of us on our team welcome the very talented Mr. Sato into our fold for 2022,” said team co-owner Dale Coyne.

Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, Sato spent seven seasons in Formula 1 prior to his arrival in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2010. He most recently spent the last four seasons with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Team co-owner Rick Ware added: “I am excited to have Takuma join the Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Family for 2022. Takuma’s experience within motorsports is extensive, not just in the United States, but around the world. With Takuma’s experience, and vast knowledge of the cars, we are really looking forward to stepping up the program and having a successful season, and maybe even add another INDIANAPOLIS 500 win to his list of achievements.”

The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season kicks off on the Streets of St. Petersburg February 25 – 27, 2022.

Sato Joins Coyne/Rick Ware Racing

Image from Dale Coyne Twitter

It’s not a complete surprise, but two time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will drive car 51 for Dale Coyne for Rick Ware Racing in 2022. The car had Romain Grosjean behind the wheel last season. We are still waiting for Coyne to confirm David Malukas in the 18, likely in apartnership with Global HMD, Malukas’s father’s company . The announcement earlier this week that Vasser-Sullivan would not return I think is somewhat of a confirmation.

The announcement from Coyne:

Plainfield, IL (Thursday, December 9, 2021) – Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing has signed two-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Takuma Sato to drive its #51 Honda powered entry for the entire 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.

“I am extremely excited that we were able to work out a deal with Dale, Rick and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing,” shared Sato. “With Honda an integral part of Dale Coyne Racing, it seemed like a great fit. The team has proven year after year that they are very competitive on all types of circuits.

“Particularly the speed that team has shown in recent years at the Indy 500 were very impressive. I am really looking forward to working with my new environment and can’t wait to get started.”

Sato brings 12 years of NTT INDYCAR SERIES experience with him to the team. In his 198 starts, he has finished on the podium 14 times and has six wins, including his two Indianapolis 500 victories. The 44-year-old driver has also started on pole position 10 times, has led 896 laps and has 70 top 10 finishes.

“Takuma has shown that he is one of the best drivers to ever race in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. Winning the famed Indianapolis 500 twice, we look forward to competing with our package of a good car with a great driver in the 500 next year. All of us on our team welcome the very talented Mr. Sato into our fold for 2022,” said team co-owner Dale Coyne.

Hailing from Tokyo, Japan, Sato spent seven seasons in Formula 1 prior to his arrival in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES in 2010. He most recently spent the last four seasons with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team.

Team co-owner Rick Ware added: “I am excited to have Takuma join the Dale Coyne Racing with RWR Family for 2022. Takuma’s experience within motorsports is extensive, not just in the United States, but around the world. With Takuma’s experience, and vast knowledge of the cars, we are really looking forward to stepping up the program and having a successful season, and maybe even add another INDIANAPOLIS 500 win to his list of achievements.”

The 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season kicks off on the Streets of St. Petersburg February 25 – 27, 2022.

Sato Reveals Borg- Warner Trophy Image

In an online show on IMS.com, 2020 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato got his first look at his second likeness on the Borg-Warner trophy. Sato is a two time winner of the race. He first won in 2017 and finished third in 2019.The race is 100 days from today.

The 30 minute program featured segments with Doug Boles and Rahal Letterman team owners Mike lanigan and Bobby Rahal. Last year was Rahal’s second win as a car owner. He also won the 2004 race with Buddy Rice driving. The third team owner, David Letterman, appeared in a prerecorded video.

The full program is available for viewing on YouTube.

A Good Sign for 500 Fans?

The NCAA this morning announced that the NCCA men’s basketball tournament games will allow 25% capacity at the games, which be played entirely in Indianapolis. The tournament will take place at several venues in Indianapolis as well as at Purdue and Indiana University. The 25% includes the teams and game personnel, which narrows the actual number of fans at each arena. As I am writing this, Purdue just announced 12-13% capacity for the tournament games.

The positive part is that this may signal some good news for fan attendance at the Indianapolis 500. Marion County has been the most restrictive county in Indiana at times, but this allowance may be a great sign for May.

Some Final Thoughts on the 104th Indianapolis 500

Photo; Indycar, Chris Jones

Takuma Sato becomes the 20th multiple winner of the Indianapolis 500. The two time club includes Tommy Milton, Bill Vukovich, Rodger Ward, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser, Jr., and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Since 2013 Alexander Rossi is the only driver under the age of 30 to win the 500. There may be a youth movement in the series, but the veterans own this race.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan is the first team other than Team Penske or Andretti Autosport to win the 500 since 2013.

Sunday was a rough day for Ed Carpenter Racing. Conor Daly crashed. Rimus Veekay ran well early until he came into the pits too hard and hit a crewman.Ed Carpenter needed a front wing replaced early and finished 13 laps behind the winner.

The aeroscreen once again helped keep the drivers safe. James Davison said it protected from the fire and fumes after his brake caught fire. It appeared that the screen kept debris out of the cockpit on some other incidents. I’m sure Indycar officials will have a look at spencer pigot’s car. it appears a suspension piece mat have poked through the screen. The aeroscreen was definitely scratched up.

Very glad that Pigot is okay after that hit.

The purse of $7,500,000 was the lowest since 1991. Sato’s take was $1,350,000.

The Finish

The NTT Indycar Series made the right call in finishing the race under yellow. A red flag would have meant a 60-90 minute delay for repairs. That’s too long to wait for just one green flag lap. When you watch a race, there no  guarantee that there will be a dramatic ending just as there is not guarantee that a basketball game will always end on a three pointer at the buzzer or a baseball game will end with a walk off home run. The majority of contests end rather routinely.

While finishes under yellow are disappointing, I don’t have a problem with them. Life doesn’t always work out how we want it to.

Moving On

The series moves to World Wide Technology Raceway near St. Louis for a double header this coming weekend. I will post the weekend schedule in a bit.

Scott Dixon now leads Josef Newgarden by 84 points, and looks to be in good shape for his sixth title. I’m not going to crown him yet, but with the schedule in danger of shrinking some more, Dixon is in good shape.

We are still waiting to confirm a date for Mid Ohio, and find out whether fans will be allowed. This weekend the track is allowing 20% capacity. This could possibly be the last Indycar weekend with fans this year.

Indianapolis 500- Quick Thoughts

 Photo: Chris Jones, Indycar

It is probably a good thing that there was a repeat winner this year. It would have been a shame if a first time winner didn’t get to hear the cheers from the fans as he drove around on his cool down lap.

I hope I never have to watch the race on live television again. The commercials came at inopportune times, Leigh Diffey mentioned the drivers’ kids in the middle of a first place battle, and they seemed behind on every accident. I feel sorry for those of you who have to do this every year. So much was missing.

In his last four Indianapolis 500s, Takuma Sato has two wins and a third place finish. Prior to his first win in 2017, Sato had never finished the race higher than 13th place.

It was eerie seeing the opening ceremonies taking place in an empty track. “(Back Home Again In) Indiana was still emotional.

I agree with Indycar’s decision not to throw the red flag. Lap 200 would have been the only green lap. utter chaos would ensue. The red flag should only be thrown if there can be at least three green flag laps remaining. The attenuator repair would take more than an hour. How many fans don’t NBCSN and would not be able to watch the finish?

I felt the penalty on Rossi was appropriate. I am surprised Sato didn’t get at least a warning for his move on Dixon.

It was a decent race with more passing than I expected. I really enjoyed the final two stints. They had great battles for position. Have to wonder what a green ending would have been like, but races have been shortened by rain with someone charging towards the lead.

It was a rough day for the rookies. Rinus VeeKay and Alex Palou looked great early. P{alou crashed and VeeKay had issues in the pits. Pato O’Ward ended as the highest finishing rookie and will probably get Rookie of the Year.

Dixon now has an 85 point lead over Josef Newgarden for the series championship. He is in good shape with seven races left, none of which pay double points.

Dixon is now third on the all time Indianapolis 500 laps led list.

It seems that hat the accidents caused more fire and left more fluid on the track than I remember seeing in a while.

It’s been a while since Team Penske wasn’t a factor in the 500.

Sato improved to sixth in season points. will he stay in the top 10?

Indycar Season Review- Newgarden Reclaims Title and Rookies Shine

Photo: Josef Newgarden on his way to clinching the championship at Weather Tech Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Kyle McInnes

In some ways 2019 was an unusual season for the NTT Indycar Series. In other ways, it was a typical season.

Some unusual items:

All three of the championship contenders heading to the final race had at least one finish of 15th or worse.

The seven race winners each won multiple times. I can’t recall that ever happening before. Seven winners seems like the lowest total in a few years as well.

None of the three contenders won a race after July 20.

Alexander Rossi did not lead a lap after his dominating win at Road America on June 23.

Typically, Team Penske drivers led more than 900 laps and won nine races. The team also enjoyed a 1-2 finish in the final standings.

Josef Newgarden combined  consistency and some great pit strategy by Tim Cindric to jump to an early points lead which he held most of the season. Rossi climbed to within 16 points after Mid Ohio, but the lead expanded in the following race after Rossi’s involvement in the first lap incident at Pocono. Simon Pagenaud saved his job with his two brilliant victories in May. He had a 4.8 finishing average over the last six races and came up just 25 points short of his second title.

Rossi was dominating at Long Beach and Road America. He finished second in the Indianapolis 500. The rest of the time he was good, but not great. I thought Rossi was more consistent in 2018. Since his Road America win, Rossi had an average finish of 7.7

Dixon’s Title Defense Stalls

Scott Dixon’s season was typical of his title defense years. He never got going. 2019 was just the second time he has finished outside the top three in the standings.

Dixon finished second three times and third once in the first five races. A 17th place in the Indianapolis 500 followed by a crash and 22nd place in the first Belle Isle race put Dixon  in a hole he could not climb out of. He did bounce back to win the second race at Belle Isle and also won at Mid Ohio. Dixon now has 46 career wins, just six short of Mario Andretti for second place all time.

Rookies Have Outstanding Year

The four rookies- Colton Herta, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, and Santino Ferrucci- collectively had a season that any rookie group would be thrilled with. The class earned  2 wins, 4 poles, and 6 podiums. Ferrucci had an average finish on ovals of 6.2. Rosenqvist’s street/road course average was a respectable 7.1. Herta took most of the headlines with his three poles and two victories, but mechanical issues and accidents suppressed his averages and kept him behind in the points standings.

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Felix Rosenqvist edged Colton Herta for Rookie of the Year. Photo: Kyle McInnes

Rosenqvist won the Rookie of the Year title with a fierce drive at Laguna Seca from 14th to fifth to edge Herta by five points. He served notice at St. Petersburg that the rookies meant business when he passed Will Power on a restart. With Rosenqvist staying at Ganassi and Herta moving to the main Andretti team, I see a future rivalry between these two in a couple years.

Surprises and Disappointments

The biggest surprise of the year was Takuma Sato winning two races and earning two pole positions. Sato had a big slump beginning at Texas and was blamed for the early accident at Pocono. It would be nice to see him put a full season together.

Jack Harvey and Meyer Shank racing deserve consideration for driver and team of the year. Harvey earned the team’s first podium at the Indycar Grand Prix. In just 10 races, Harvey had four top ten finishes, got into the Fast Six twice, and finished on the lead lap in seven races. They seemed to struggle after their long break following Road America. If their plan to be full time in 2020 works out, they should be even better.

Zach Veach was probably the most disappointing driver. After finishing 2018 strongly, I thought he would have a great year. He lingered in the back half of the field most weekends and finished 18th in points, ahead of only Matheus Leist and Ed Jones among the drivers who drove all 17 races.

The Best and Not So Best

Not every race can be great, and like most years a few races stood out.

For me, the best races were the Indycar Grand Prix, Mid Ohio, Iowa, and Gateway.

The worst races in my opinion were Pocono, Detroit 1, Toronto, and Portland.

 

 

 

 

The Podium of Redemption- Quick Thoughts on the Bommarito Automotive Group 500

Three drivers who needed a good result got the best results possible. Takuma Sato, maligned as the cause of the first lap crash at Pocono; Ed Carpenter, in his final race of the year and some questioning whether he should step out of the car; and Tony Kanaan, whose best finish to date was a quiet eighth, stood proudly on the podium after The Bommarito Automotive Group 500.

Each of these drivers needed a good finish and they couldn’t have asked for more.

Josef Newgarden placed more distance between himself and his closest rivals.

Santino Ferrucci had the drive of the day. He led the most laps and made some incredible passes. It’s a shame the pit stops and yellows fell the way they did.

There was a great four way battle for the lead in the middle of the race with Ferrucci, Sebastien Bourdais, Newgarden, and Rossi.

In spite of all the yellows, some of which were a bit too long, this was a great race. The race had lots of passing, on track lead changes, pit strategy, and a close finish.

Sato has had a strange season- strong early, then a terrible middle, then he rebounds with another win.  He has two wins and a pole in this weird season.

Conor Daly grabs another top ten. I hope Carlin puts him in the car full time next year. He again shows that he can get the most out of a car.

Carpenter finishes his oval season with two straight top tens and three overall.

I can’t remember a race in which Will Power finished last and Scott Dixon finished 20th.  Dixon’s chance of winning the title may have suffered a fatal blow tonight.

Ferrucci now leads the rookie standings by two points over Felix Rosenqvist.

Five drivers in the top ten started 17th or worse.

I will update this post later.

Thanks for following along the last two days.

 

 

 

 

Indycar at Mid Season Part 1- Surprises

The mid point of the NTT Indycar Series always seems to arrive too quickly. Wasn’t St. Pete just two weeks ago?   The crews and teams have a welcome break, which became even better for them as Wednesday’s scheduled test at Road America has already been cancelled for now due to weather. I don’t know why the test wasn’t scheduled for the Wednesday of race week.

As with every season, 2019 has had  some surprises and disappointments along with the predictability of the Big Three winning most of the time.. The top four in points are separated by just 89 points. All four have won at least one race.  Josef Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by 25 points. I don’t think this fight is over by any means. Today I’ll talk about the surprises of the first half of 2019. Tomorrow I’ll discuss the first half disappointments.

Surprises- Rookies, Missing Names from Win Column

Will Power-

The biggest surprise of the season is that Power has not won a race yet. He has two third place finishes, one at St. Pete and last week at the second Detroit race, three other top ten finishes and is sixth in points.  Last place at COTA and an 18th place finish at Detroit in race one have hurt his standing. I expect him to win a race or two the second half of the season.

Keeping it Close-

Each of the top four drivers- Newgarden, Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, and Scott Dixon-have at least one finish below 15th place.  Last season  in Dixon’s march to the title he had a worst finish of twelfth. Newgarden’s three victories are allowing him to keep the lead.  Team Penske drivers generally have a tendency to fade the second half of the year. Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 let a comfortable lead slip away and lost the championship to Dixon. Helio Castroneves lost a couple titles late in the season. Newgarden in 2017  and Pagenaud in 2016, however, won their titles with consistent runs and were strong throughout their title years.

Santino Ferrucci-

Where did this guy come from? He was nearly invisible at the beginning of the year, but has shown consistency of late with four top tens in the last five races. he has five top tens this year, including a career best fourth at Texas Saturday night. The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year now leads the rookie standings by 12 points over Felix Rosenqvist.  Ferrucci has driven extremely well on the two ovals. There are three ovals in the second half of the season.

The Other Rookies-

Felix Rosenqvist

Rosenqvist got off to a great start at St. Pete where he led laps and finished fourth. He then won the pole for the Indycar GP at IMS. Rosenqvist has five top tens and two top fives. His two DNFs and 23rd place finish at COTA have put him behind Ferrucci.

Colton Herta

If Herta finished every race Rookie of the Year would not even be close. Four straight DNFs followed his win at COTA. The issues were mechanical. Saturday at Texas he was in a position for at least a podium when he and Dixon collided with less than 20 laps to go.  If Herta drives like he did for most of the race at Texas in the second half of 2019, he could win again or see the podium a couple of times.

Marcus Ericsson

Ericsson’s second at Detroit has been the highlight of a season filled with lots of frustration.  He has just three top tens,but two have come in the last two races. Ericsson has had some good days ruined by mistakes. He still could have a decent season.

Other Surprises

Alexander Rossi

The surprise is that Rossi has won just once this year. His car just doesn’t seem to have enough to get to first.  Rossi showed frustration after Texas, his third runner-up finish of the year. He is having a great year, but I expected just a bit more. I still think his consistency will get him to the top. Rossi  also has two race/season saving moves this season. He was able to keep his car going in Detroit last Sunday after the collision between Newgarden and James Hinchcliffe. Saturday night he narrowly avoided the spinning car of Herta on the apron.

Takuma Sato

I saved the biggest surprise for last. Sato is driving better than he ever has this season. Two poles and a victory have Sato in fifth place in the standings. He has been on the podium three times, including at the Indianapolis 500 where he cam from way back. Sato’s only mistake this season came Saturday at Texas when he came into the pits too fast and hit a crewman. His stop and go penalty left him three laps down and in fifteenth place.  Sato will be a factor in the title fight all season.

Tomorrow- Disappointments

 

Quick Thoughts- Texas Qualifying

Photo; Takuma Sato at Indianapolis last month

Note: The  comments above the break were written in real time during qualifying.

Tony Kanaan’s miserable year continues. He brushed the wall on his qualifying lap.

Great first lap by Marco then he looked like he was back on slicks at Detroit last Saturday.

After Spencer Pigot’s run I thought Ed Carpenter would do better.

Takuma Sato with another great qualifying run.

Disappointing run fir Alexander Rossi.

That is the worst Team Penske qualifying effort I’ve seen in a while.

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Anyone who says they knew before the season started that Sato would have two poles is lying. I have said he will be in this title fight all season. Sato is third in bonus points with 7, behind Rossi and Newgarden.

Sato now has 9 career poles.  Ryan Hunter-Reay and  Josef Newgarden each  have 7.

The race will he interesting with Rossi and Will Power starting mid pack.  Keep your on starting spots 8-15 the first stint tomorrow.

I wonder if the Penske cars have better race cars than qualifying cars.

The tire question will be huge tomorrow night, especially late in the race.

Marco can’t catch a break, even with a really good car.

The unofficial results:

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Back tomorrow with Quick Thoughts after the race and a full report Sunday on Wildfire Sports.