Takuma Sato got redemption last weekend in Gateway. Following a week of getting bashed by peers as well as race fans for a first lap incident the race prior in Pocono, Sato rebounded for a much needed win under the lights in St. Louis last Saturday night. Now, can he keep it up?
See, it wasn’t just that Sato was seeking redemption last weekend, he needed to turn his season back around too. At one point of the year, the Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing driver was a championship contender. He had five top eight finishes in his No. 30 Honda in the first seven races including a third place run in the Indianapolis 500.
But, over the last eight races now, his win in Gateway is his lone top five in that time frame. In fact, heading into last weekend’s race, he had four straight finishes of 19th or worse. He went from a championship sleeper to just trying to stay in the top 10 of the points standings.
Now that he has some momentum back, he’s eyeing to keep it.
Takuma Sato leads last year’s Grand Prix of Portland – INDYCAR Media Site
This weekend, we head to the Portland International Raceway, a place where Sato won at in fact a year ago. With coming off of a win in Gateway, going back-to-back will be a big momentum builder.
“It’s great to go back to Portland as the defending winner and also having won in St. Louis,” Sato said ahead of this weekend’s race. “I’m really honored to be the first winner for the new generation of races there. That was also the first win for me with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing so there are a lot of great memories and happy moments.
“I’m really happy to be there as the defending champion and I believe we can do a good job again.”
Sato, notes that despite the win last year, that they didn’t hit the setup right in qualifying. He said that strategy helped get him to the front last year but doesn’t necessarily think they can be that fortunate this weekend.
“It is a tough track for sure and it was an extremely tight field,” Sato continued. “We couldn’t qualify well last year but the time difference between the front row to the bottom was only a couple of tenths (of a second) so it is extremely important to squeeze the last percent of performance possible in qualifying. Further up on the grid is better of course but, if you look at last year, we ran a very unique strategy in terms of the fuel and succeeded. I don’t know if that can happen again this year but more importantly our generic road course setup this year is more competitive than it was last year so I’m looking forward to having a very competitive weekend again.”