Sato's resurgence fueling RLL's 1-2 punch

Image by Levitt/LAT

Sato's resurgence fueling RLL's 1-2 punch


Sato's resurgence fueling RLL's 1-2 punch


Takuma Sato is enjoying an epic late-career resurgence entering Saturday night’s DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. Holding fifth place in the championship, the 42-year-old Japanese driver has visited the podium three times in the eight races held so far, including a win at Barber Motorsports Park (photo above) and a third at the Indianapolis 500.

At an age where fiery ambition can wane, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing pilot is surging, leading RLL in the standings as ninth-place teammate Graham Rahal looks to join him at the sharp end of the NTT IndyCar Series field.

In forming the 1-2 punch that team owners Bobby Rahal, David Letterman, and Mike Lanigan have wanted for many years, Sato says he’s happy to be the ‘1’ at the moment, but isn’t letting it cloud his mind.

“As teammates, we are completely working together. But at the same time, [a teammate] is the nearest rival, isn’t he?” Sato notes.

With Rahal as his measuring stick, Sato is thriving alongside the American star who he knows, on any given weekend, could lead the team to victory.

“It’s not [about beating or being] beaten, but working together is such a pleasure because [Graham] is so honest,” he said. “And the competition level in the team is obviously high, so he pushes me and I push him. Unfortunately, he had too many unfortunate situations [this year].

“So perhaps, on a piece of the paper, maybe not the result he wanted; but he showed obviously the great speed. I’ve had better season so far but we’ll see how he’s looking up for the rest of the season.

“My goal is obviously working together and building the next level, lifting the next level for the team. And that’s exactly what Graham wants, too.”

Regarded as the nicest driver in the paddock, Sato had a laugh while describing how harmony with Rahal is the goal, but there are limits to being a teammate’s No. 1 fan.

“For the personal level, of course he wants to beat me and of course he wants to be winning in the races, and so do I,” he continued. “So, it is healthy competition happening in a team, and at the moment, there is nothing dragging down for both of us. So, it’s working pretty good so far.

“Obviously, we don’t know the future, right? If he discontinues this work, Graham might piss me off. Maybe. I don’t know, I can’t tell (laughs). But for now, the whole team, for me, it’s working certainly better than last year. Obviously not the best, because we’re not winning every single weekend. But I think it’s just working better.”