Skip to content

Partnership paying off for Sato, Foyt Racing

Apr 21, 2013, 11:42 PM EDT

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!

In an effort to jolt some life into his IZOD IndyCar Series team that hadn’t won a race since 2002, A.J. Foyt Racing team director Larry Foyt brought in the aggressive Takuma Sato to take over their No. 14 ABC Supply Honda — with the approval of his father, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, naturally.

Some wondered if the right call had been made in hiring Sato, the ex-Formula One driver that had gained a double-edged reputation for being exciting to watch and for being crash-prone. But to hear Larry tell it, the connection was immediate between the Japanese racer and the little team from Waller, Texas.

“We knew he was fast, [but] until you really know somebody, you don’t know how you’re going to work together and how it’s going to be,” Larry said on Sunday. “It was great — our first working relationship was a seven-day Caribbean cruise.  We’ve been good friends ever since.

“…I really think between our chief engineer, Don Halliday, and Takuma, there was a lot of trust there, which you have to have. It’s been great. Like Takuma said, the speed has been there. Little issues can always bite you. Our junior engineer kept telling us, ‘We don’t have to be the biggest team to win.’  There can be positives to being a smaller team and a tight-knit group.”

It appears that such an atmosphere seems to suit Sato, who snapped A.J. Foyt Racing’s long dry spell with a dominant victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. It’s a win that’s sure to resonate with many, from those that love the underdogs to Sato’s veritable army of fans in his homeland of Japan — a country still trying to recover from the devastating natural disasters of two years ago.

“People are still on the way back — 300,000 people still don’t have a home and have temporary living,” said Sato, who led IndyCar’s efforts to help those affected by the earthquake and tsunami. “This hopefully is good news to cheer them up and hopefully, this is just a start to bring more IndyCar excitement and enthusiasm to Japanese fans.”

And what did A.J. have to say about the breakthrough? He was back in the Lone Star State, preparing for surgery next week to relieve sciatica. However, he was eagerly watching the action unfold on TV.

“The last five laps were the longest of anything,” A.J. told Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star. “We’ve had a lot of drivers; none of them wanted to win.

“This boy [Sato] wants to win.”

It’s safe to say that the Foyts have made the right call after all.

Latest Posts
  1. GP2: Pierre Gasly claims first pole position at Monza

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    Gasly storms to pole ahead of Mitch Evans and Stoffel Vandoorne as American driver Alexander Rossi struggles to P10 on the grid.

  2. Ecclestone confident Vettel will be champion with Ferrari

    Sep 4, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 4, 2015 in Northampton, England. Getty Images

    Ecclestone backs Vettel to win a fifth world championship during his time with Ferrari.

  3. Boullier: McLaren intends to keep Button for 2016

    Sep 4, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    McLaren Honda's British driver Jenson Button walks in the paddock before the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone on July 5, 2015.       AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Despite having four capable drivers and just two seats, Eric Boullier has a bold plan for 2016.

  4. Vettel relishing first Italian GP in Ferrari colors

    Sep 4, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany smiles during a news conference at the Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy , Thursday, Sept. 3 , 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) AP

    After being the enemy for the Ferrari fans in the past at Monza, Vettel will now carry their hopes of a home win on his shoulders.

  5. Hamilton sure he can go quicker still after Monza practice

    Sep 4, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers this car during the second free practice at the Monza racetrack,  Italy , Friday, Sept. 4 , 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) AP

    Despite finishing well clear of the chasing pack on Friday in practice, Hamilton believes he can go faster still.

  6. Drivers run with tributes to Justin Wilson in Italian GP practice at Monza

    Sep 4, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    Germany's Sebastian Vettel sits in the cockpit of his Ferrari during the first free practice session of the Monza racetrack, Italy , Friday, Sept. 4 , 2015. Each of the 20 drivers sported stickers on their helmets in tribute to Justin Wilson, the 37 year old Briton who was killed last month in an Indy car race in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati) AP

    Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button among those running with a sticker paying tribute to Wilson on their helmets at Monza.

  7. WATCH: IndyCar Awards Show tonight at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

    Sep 4, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    IndyCar’s season recap airs tonight at 11:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

  8. F1 Paddock Pass: Italian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:59 AM EDT

    Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany, left, signs autographs at the Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy, Thursday, Sept. 3 , 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) AP

    Will Buxton brings you the latest news, interviews and insight from the paddock ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

  9. F1 paddock reacts to idea of racing with closed or semi-enclosed cockpits (VIDEO)

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:26 AM EDT

    AP AP

    F1 drivers react to idea of closed cockpits possibly being introduced down the road.

  10. Off The Grid: Silverstone preview (premieres 9/5 at 9:30am ET on NBCSN)

    Sep 4, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 05:  Fans of Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP fly flags as they show their support for him afterhis victory in the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone Circuit on July 5, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Will Buxton and Jason Swales head to Silverstone to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the British Grand Prix in the latest episode of Off The Grid.

  11. U.K. funeral arrangements for Justin Wilson announced; U.S. one details to come

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:58 AM EDT

    AP AP

    First round of funeral details for Justin Wilson have been confirmed.

  12. Hamilton quickest again in second Italian GP practice

    Sep 4, 2015, 9:31 AM EDT

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leads his teammate Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany during the second free practice at the Monza racetrack,  Italy , Friday, Sept. 4 , 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) AP

    Mercedes romps to another one-two finish in FP2 as the rest of the field is left trailing behind.

  13. Jota Sport to race full FIA WEC season in 2016

    Sep 4, 2015, 8:45 AM EDT

    © Jota Sport © Jota Sport

    Jota Sport confirms it will expand its LMP2 programme for 2016 to compete in the full WEC season.

  14. WATCH LIVE: FP2 for the Italian Grand Prix on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET

    Sep 4, 2015, 7:45 AM EDT

    Britain driver Lewis Hamilton steers his Mercedes during the first practice session at the Monza racetrack, Italy, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. The Formula One race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) AP

    Lewis Hamilton will be hoping to double up in FP2 after topping first practice on Friday morning.

  15. Hamilton leads Mercedes one-two in Italian GP FP1

    Sep 4, 2015, 5:31 AM EDT

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain steers his car during the first free practice at the Monza racetrack, Italy, Friday, Sept. 4 , 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) AP

    Hamilton finishes half a second clear of Rosberg to top FP1 on Friday.

  16. WATCH LIVE: FP1 for the Italian Grand Prix on Live Extra from 4am ET

    Sep 4, 2015, 3:45 AM EDT

    Technicians test a pit stop on a Ferrari car at the Monza racetrack, in Monza, Italy , Thursday, Sept. 3 , 2015. The Formula one race will be held on Sunday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) AP

    The Italian GP weekend kicks off with FP1 at 4am ET on Friday.

  17. NHRA: All you need to know about the 61st U.S. Nationals

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT

    u.s. nationals logo

    Here’s all the information you need to know about this weekend’s 61st annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis:

  18. NHRA: Year’s biggest race, the U.S. Nationals, ready to roll

    Sep 3, 2015, 6:54 PM EDT

    nhra logo

    The biggest and most important drag race of the season takes place this weekend with the 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in suburban Indianapolis.

  19. GP3 unveils new car for 2016 season at Monza

    Sep 3, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT

    © GP3 Series © GP3 Series

    The GP3/16 breaks cover at Monza ahead of its introduction next year.

  20. Mercedes uses remaining development tokens to upgrade power units

    Sep 3, 2015, 2:39 PM EDT

    A track marshal waves the checkered flag as Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton crosses the finish line to win the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Sunday Aug. 23, 2015. (Andrej Isakovic/Pool photo via AP) AP

    Mercedes goes all-in ahead of this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix, fully upgrading the power units on both of its cars.