MADISON, Ill — Heading into Road America’s doubleheader weekend in June, Takuma Sato was sitting 21st in the NTT IndyCar Series points standings. Six races later, he’s all the way up to fourth.
While most would point to Sato’s win in last Sunday’s 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 as a prime reason as to why — and they’d be right too. Sato entered the month of August 17th in points and made up 11 spots via his Indy 500 triumph. He scored 108 points that day.
But, after a runner-up six days later in Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500, he’s now in fourth overall in the standings. Yes, the double points helped him make up a ton of ground. But, so did six top 10 finishes in his last seven starts overall too.
“It’s extremely important,” Sato said. “Mathematically I think it’s still possible. It really don’t matter. I think Scott is on the way to win. I think it’s very unrealistic if I win a championship. Obviously nothing is impossible, but I don’t think so.
“Still we achieved a big win. Finish second and third in championship with Graham, Graham is in a very good position, yeah, that’s a phenomenal realistic target. We’re doing everything we could.”
Sato, is likely too far out to catch Dixon for the championship as he’s 138 points out with six races-to-go, but the comeback he’s had is nothing short of impressive.
If not for a slower than normal stop on his final pit sequence on Saturday, Sato may have won his second straight race on the season and second straight at the World Wide Technology Raceway too.
I mean, today was a great indication,” Sato said of his confidence for Sunday. “My No. 30 car work well during the race condition. I think when it start the race, we struggled. That was not hidden. We need to look again, see what we can do really.
“My side, too, if I can do anything differently for tomorrow’s start, I will. Certainly front-row start is big advantage. Hopefully we have no mistake and finish as high as possible. That’s our aim.”
He nearly chased down and passed Dixon for the win in the end. Dixon, prevailed by just .140-seconds.
Now, Dixon has to be talked about as one of the greatest ever. He’s won five titles. Second most all-time. Only AJ Foyt has more at seven. He’s well on his way to a sixth crown this year.
Dixon, only trails Mario Andretti by two victories for second most on the all-time Indy Car wins list. He has 50 wins to his credit after Saturday’s triumph. AJ Foyt is first with 67. It was also Dixon’s sixth top two finish on the season but 98th of his career, breaking a tie with Foyt for most top two finishes in series history. 48 of those 98 top two’s are runner-ups, as only Andretti’s 56 is more.
He now has 122 podiums, trailing only Mario (144) for most ever to go along with 172 top five finishes, also trailing Mario (194) on that list too.
He’s had three podiums in his last four Gateway starts.
Yeah, it’s amazing,” Dixon said of 50 wins. “As I said kind of earlier, I never thought this was ever possible. I was very lucky and very fortunate to race in a lot of junior categories, made it to INDYCAR. The first win came in a strange way at Nazareth, Pennsylvania, in a fuel race. That he was definitely a shock. Then obviously the milestone that we reached today is huge.
“Not for just me, it’s amazing what this team has been able to achieve with championships, Indy 500s. As always, I feel very fortunate to be able to work with this group of people. They’re the ones that make it possible.
“Today I think speed-wise it was going to be a tough race, tough to pass. What we were able to do in the pits, pull that off, was big.
“Yeah, 50 is a great number. I’d like to think there’s 50 more, but that might be pretty tough (laughter). We’ll keep our head down and we’d love to definitely get a lot more wins here in the next few years. Yeah, we’re in the business of winning, so that’s what we got to do.
“It means a lot for me, means a lot for my family a lot for all the people that enabled me to get here, all the investors from New Zealand that made this possible many moons ago. This is what it’s all about.”
Sato, starts on the pole on Sunday with Dixon sixth. I have a feeling these two are going to be the ones to beat again for the second of two races this weekend.