IRL: Road to Indy: Yasukawa seeks landmark win

Road To Indy: Yasukawa Seeks Landmark Win: Before last season, Roger Yasukawa had never visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, let alone raced there. This year, his goal is to win there. "It's certainly my goal to win the Indy 500. I think...

Road To Indy: Yasukawa Seeks Landmark Win: Before last season, Roger Yasukawa had never visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, let alone raced there.

This year, his goal is to win there.

"It's certainly my goal to win the Indy 500. I think that's my ultimate goal," said Yasukawa, who will drive as part of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal's three-car effort at Indianapolis.

"Last year was my first time ever at Indy. To participate in it made me realize how big an event it is. This year, I know what to do in the race. I have a year experience. Last year, I finished 10th and I think I can finish better than that."

The 26-year-old Yasukawa, who was runner-up to Dan Wheldon in the 2003 Bombardier Rookie of the Year standings, finished 12th in the IRL IndyCar® standings driving for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing. But he hasn't driven in a race since the season-ending Chevy 500 in October.

He will make his season debut in the No. 16 Sammy Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone at the Indy Japan 300 on April 16 at Twin Ring Motegi. He tested his car for the first time on March 30 during a Honda manufacturers' test day at Phoenix International Raceway.

He said he will use the Motegi event to prepare for his run at Indy and the chance to land a full-time ride with Team Rahal, which announced it would field a second full-time IndyCar Series entry earlier this month.

"Joining Team Rahal, I know the team is great," he said. "I just need to put my focus on the driving part, and hopefully, I can finish in the top five at both Motegi and Indy."

"I think being here for the whole month of May you get a lot of track time, but one thing that I learned is things change a lot here during the month, and you have to stay on top of everything. So every day seemed new to me, and this year I think I know what to expect, which is good, and also during the race."

He'll also have teammates for the first time in his IndyCar Series career, working with Buddy Rice and veteran Kenny Brack. Brack, who is recovering from injuries suffered in an accident at Texas, is serving as a consultant to the team until he is ready to drive.

"As long as Kenny offers me all that advice, I will take everything," Yasukawa said. "Last year I was just by myself. The team was new to the 500, as well. So everything was on a learning curve. I think this year I know what to expect. I think the team's going to help me a lot."

But he said it will be difficult to gauge where he stands against the other IndyCar Series drivers, especially those who have been competing since the beginning of the season.

"It's hard to see how it's going to be," he said. "You just have to be mentally and physically prepared going into it. I did get a day of testing to help me get my rhythm. I just try to be as prepared as I can before the event. Motegi is a big event for me and Honda, since they haven't won there yet. Hopefully I, or someone for Honda, can be the first car to win there."

But equally as big would be a win in the 88th running of "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

"It would be big," he said. "In terms of the IndyCar Series in Japan, I think they're still looking for a Japanese hero -- someone who can win races. No one has done that yet. Hopefully I can be the first one to do that."

And, he said there may be perks.

"If anything, I know I'll have a job for the rest of my life," he joked. "Maybe they'll make me president of Honda."

-ims-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Kenny Brack , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice