Takuma Sato signs with Foyt

A.J. Foyt likes Takuma Sato’s drive. Sato likes A.J. Foyt Racing’s potential. Deal done.

Sato will drive the Honda-powered No. 14 ABC Supply-sponsored car for the 19-race IZOD IndyCar Series season.

“There were a lot of question marks when the season ended, but I’m happy to put an end to all that now,” team owner A.J. Foyt said. “We chose to go with Takuma Sato because he brings a lot of experience to our team but he has the hunger of a rookie. He’s certainly proven he has the desire to win.”

Foyt pointed to the finish of last May’s Indianapolis 500, when Sato overtook Scott Dixon and then attempted to get around race leader Dario Franchitti in Turn 1 of the final lap, as an example of Sato’s determination.

“I like the fact that he is competitive on both road courses and ovals and that he is a charger,” Foyt added. “I think he has learned quite a bit in the short time he’s been over here and I look forward to working with him this year.”

Sato, who enters his fourth season of IZOD IndyCar Series competition, has earned two pole starts (Iowa and Edmonton in 2011) and posted five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 49 starts. His career best is second at Edmonton last July after starting third in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car.

Mike Conway started 14 of the 15 races in 2012 (Wade Cunningham filled in at the season finale at Auto Club Speedway) with a best finish of third at Toronto after qualifying 13th.

“I am extremely excited to be a part of A.J. Foyt Racing and working with ABC Supply for the 2013 season,” said Sato, who turns 36 on Jan. 28.  “I have seen the potential of the team last year on a number of occasions.  I think the team has one of the best engineering staffs in the paddock led by Don Halliday.  I can’t wait to start testing next month.”

Before getting on the track, Sato will get to know principals of the team’s sponsor.

“My first assignment is not a tough one at all,” he said. “I will be on a seven-day Caribbean cruise with guests of the team’s sponsor ABC Supply followed by several appearances at industry trade shows.  I am anxious to meet them and start working with this great company.”

The IZOD IndyCar Series season kicks off March 24 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Sato has a best finish of fifth (2011 in his second season with KV Racing Technology) on the 1.8-mile temporary street circuit.

Sato moved to the IZOD IndyCar Series following a successful career in Formula One from 2002-08. In 2004, while driving for the British American Racing/Honda team, he finished on the podium in the U.S. Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and placed eighth in the championship standings. His performance contributed to BAR/Honda finishing runner-up to Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.

Sato progressed quickly from winning a karting title in 1997 to competing in F-1 five years later. En route he won the British Formula 3 championship in 2001 and capped that title-winning performance by winning the prestigious F3Macau Grand Prix.

A.J. Foyt Racing is a charter member of the IZOD IndyCar Series. The team has seven career IZOD IndyCar Series victories, including the 1999 Indianapolis 500 with Kenny Brack, and two series championships. The four-time Indianapolis 500 champion has been competing at the top level of motorsports with his own team since December 1965.

“While I do not know A.J. well yet, it is unbelievable what he did in his career,” said Sato, a Tokyo native who resides in Denver. “A.J. has achieved so many wins in every type of car, at every type of circuit, and in every type of situation. That experience can only help in trying to win races this year. I think with A.J. and the team helping me this year, we can be very successful.”