Sato now a championship contender, says race engineer
Takuma Sato’s race engineer Garrett Mothersead believes his Indy 500 win has made him a strong contender for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship.
After qualifying fourth – worth 36 points at the Indianapolis 500 – and gaining 101 points on race day, the Andretti Autosport-Honda driver has catapulted into joint second in the championship, alongside Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, and only 11 points behind new points leader Helio Castroneves.
Asked if Sato can now be regarded as a strong contender for the IndyCar title, Mothersead told Motorsport.com: “I do, I think there’s several things in our favor.
“If you’re strong at Indy, you should be strong at Pocono. Then at Texas, we took pole with the #26 car [driven by Carlos Munoz last year] and we dominated the first stint, but we got shuffled back
“Then the race got split up by weather. We came back two months later and it was a totally different animal. We didn’t have time to adjust the cars to that. So I don’t think that race was a fair reflection of what we could have done.
“And then looking at the other tracks on the schedule, as a team, we’ve really picked up our street course program quite a bit, so that should help a lot. We were strong at St. Pete and Long Beach, so yeah, I think we have a good shot at the championship.”
Although he’s confident Sato can compete for the title, Mothersead believes that the focus for now will be on gathering large amounts of points each weekend.
He commented: “At this point it’s too early to talk about it, maybe too early to even be thinking about it. We just need to keep working hard at the results, each day.
“This is a championship that will come down to consistency. Taku was the sixth different winner in the first six races of the year – that’s how IndyCar is. So each week we just need to do the best we can do, and not make errors.
“Everyone always wants those wins, but in the end it’s the closest guy to an average of a fourth-place finish who gets it done. The wins aren’t that big a deal in terms of the championship.
“If we find a little more reliability, that could be the crucial thing. Honda will be hard at it after what we’ve seen in recent weeks, so if they can solve that problem, we should be in with a strong shot at the championship.”
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