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May 08, 2013 - 03:53 PM
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Sato's Early-Season Surge Bringing A.J. Foyt Racing Back To Prominence
Posted by: newsla on May 08, 2013 - 03:45 PM
IndyCar News
Sato's Early-Season Surge Bringing A.J. Foyt Racing Back To Prominence

• Offseason Lessons Key Early Success For Andretti
• Speedway Children's Charities Offers Its Unique Version Of "Fast" Food During Chefs in the Fast Lane Event


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The start of the IZOD IndyCar Series season has proven to be unpredictable. Championship contenders Dario Franchitti and Will Power find themselves 15th and 20th, respectively, in the points standings heading into the Indianapolis 500. Two first-time IZOD IndyCar Series winners have stood atop the podium during the first four races with Andretti Autosport's James Hinchcliffe winning twice this season - at St. Petersburg (Fla.) and Sao Paulo (Brazil) - and A.J. Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato taking Long Beach (Calif.).

The most surprising statistic of the early portion of the season is Sato's impressive run for the single-car team of legendary driver and Texas native A.J. Foyt. Sato, who joined A.J. Foyt Racing this offseason, owns a pair of podium finishes that has propelled him into the lead for the IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

"(I'm) really happy with the performance," Sato said. "I think (there's) consistency now, (we are) getting really good rhythm. So hopefully now (we can) carry really good momentum."

Sato snapped A.J. Foyt Racing's long winless drought as he earned the organization's first IZOD IndyCar Series victory since 2002 when Airton Dare was victorious at Kansas Speedway. His first victory in his 52nd career start also elevated him to rock-star status in his native Japan as he became the first Japanese driver to win an Indy-car race.

The team's momentum heading into the Indianapolis 500, the first oval of the season, has put them in prime position to continue the positive trend.

"The team is really doing a fantastic job," A.J. Foyt Racing Team Director Larry Foyt said. "Takuma is driving just amazingly. It's been good, so going into the month of May, obviously this is a long month and anything can happen, but it's always a positive to have good momentum going into Indy."

The series enters the portion of the schedule packed with oval races. Five of the next six events will come on ovals, including a visit to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 550 on Saturday, June 8. The race will be broadcast in primetime live on ABC-TV, beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT.

Sato was one of eight IZOD IndyCar Series drivers to take part in a special test session at Texas Motor Speedway in March. The opportunity to work with his new team on an oval helped prepare him for the upcoming stretch run.

"That really showed us positive signs," Sato said of the test at Texas Motor Speedway. "The engineers wanted to try a couple of things last year that they couldn't make work. We'll see how we build up for the month of May. I have great confidence of the team doing a great job at the (Indy) 500."

The IZOD IndyCar Series returns for the Firestone 550 - "America's Original Nighttime IndyCar Race" - on Saturday, June 8. The race will be paired with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400, which will be held the evening of Friday, June 7. Tickets are available by calling the ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

Street Smarts

Marco Andretti is off to the best start of his career as the eight-year IZOD IndyCar Series veteran finds himself second in the series championship, just 13 points behind leader Takuma Sato. Andretti has run off an impressive streak of four consecutive top-10 finishes to start off the season, all of which have come on street or road circuits. The strong start includes podium finishes of third at St. Petersburg (Fla.) and Sao Paulo (Brazil).

Andretti's performance comes on the heels of a tumultuous 2012 season where he finished 15th in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, the worst finish of his career. He tallied just three top-10 finishes last season, with only one of which came on a street/road course (Mid-Ohio), and already has surpassed that total.

"I think right now we're on par for a great season," Andretti said. "This is what used to be the tough part of the season for me. We've been getting some decent results where I used to struggle, so I'm pleased with that."

It's just the second time Andretti has been as high as second in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship, the other coming in 2008 when he finished second in season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Andretti entered the offseason with a renewed sense of focus in an attempt to improve for 2013. With the help of Andretti Autosport teammate and defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, he was able to transform his on-track approach.

"I used to overdrive the car," Andretti said. "I was too aggressive with my style. It used to work against me. So I really in the offseason focused on what I was doing wrong, and compared to Ryan (Hunter-Reay), who won the championship, I had the luxury of looking up against his data. (I) really just focused on driving the tire, getting the most that the car is going to give me."

Andretti will make a stop in Dallas/Fort Worth for a special media event on Monday, May 20, just a day after qualifying for the 97th Indianapolis 500. A media alert with details of the event will be sent out soon.

Dine In The Fast Lane

Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter will give new meaning to "fast" food as it again plays host to Chefs in the Fast Lane presented by the City of Roanoke: The Unique Dining Capital of Texas on Thursday, June 6, at 6 p.m. CT at Texas Motor Speedway.

Fans will enjoy an evening of fine fare featuring the restaurants of nearby Roanoke and tour some of the most luxurio us settings in motorsports as participants will visit the Lone Star Tower condominiums overlooking Turn 2 of Texas Motor Speedway. Each condo will feature a new dining experience with cuisines from some of Dallas/Fort Worth's most popular eateries that include Suze, Sevy's, The Classic Café, INZO Italian Kitchen and Levy Restaurants, among others.

Guests will help crown a winner of Chefs in the Fast Lane presented by the City of Roanoke: The Unique Dining Capital of Texas as they will submit their vote for their favorite stop at the conclusion of the event. The top restaurant will take home the Chefs in the Fast Lane trophy to proudly display.

The evening will kick off with a cocktail and dessert reception at the condo clubhouse that includes items from Hard Eight BBQ, Hey Sugar Candy Store and Susie's Sweet Boutique. Individual tickets are $150, and $275 for couples. To purchase tickets for Chefs in the Fast Lane presented by the City of Roanoke: The Unique Dining Capital of Texas, call Speedway Children's Charities at (817) 215-8421.

Last Lap

The media credential deadline for the Firestone 550/WinStar World Casino 400 weekend is Friday, May 24. To apply for credentials, visit www.smicredentials.com. Those not yet registered for the website will first need to apply for access through the site. Once a registration confirmation e-mail is received, the credential request can then be submitted. No credentials will be issued following the deadline. ... Time is running out to give mom the chance to ride next to an IZOD IndyCar Series star during driver introductions for the Firestone 550. Through Sunday's Mother's Day, Texas Motor Speedway is offering fans that purchase tickets for the Firestone 550 a chance to send mom on a pre-race parade lap with Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti or Graham Rahal. Season ticketholders as well as anyone who purchased tickets prior to the promotion also are eligible. To purchase tickets to the Firestone 550, visit www.texasmotorspeedway.com or call (817) 215-8500.

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