The first quarter of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season has seen three winners in four races, 15 drivers record at least one top-five finish and the emergence of Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti as legitimate championship contenders.
The veteran drivers find themselves 1-2 in the series point standings after four races following podium finishes in the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.
Sato, driving the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda for A.J. Foyt Racing, backed up his first IZOD IndyCar Series victory at Long Beach on April 21 with a runner-up finish to James Hinchcliffe in the May 5 race. Andretti recorded his second third-place finish of the season and fourth top-seven finish in as many races in the No. 25 RC Cola Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport.
Sato holds a 13-point lead heading to Indianapolis, where his final-lap “no attack, no chance” attempt to overtake Dario Franchitti for the lead last May won him the hearts of many fans. The last time an A.J. Foyt Racing driver led the INDYCAR standings was in 1998 when Kenny Brack won the series title.
“This team is really doing a fantastic job,” team director Larry Foyt said. “Takuma is driving just amazingly. Obviously, this is a long month and anything can happen, but it’s always a positive to have good momentum going into Indy.”
Added four-time Indianapolis 500 champion and team founder A.J. Foyt: “You always like to be leading the points regardless of where you’re going. But we’ve just got to come out of there with a bigger lead in points.”
That, of course, will be difficult with another stout field attempting to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, who are aiming for their record-tying fourth victories, and Andretti, who has a trio of top-three finishes in his seven runs on the 2.5-mile oval, are among the early favorites.
“We have some good momentum going and we’ve always run well at Indianapolis,” Andretti said. “Obviously, it’s a totally different ballgame being an oval. We just have to get a good race car there. If we can’t win, get another good result and keep the points going.”
Andretti Autosport teammate Hinchcliffe jumped to fourth in the standings with his victory by .3463 of a second and also has momentum going to Indianapolis, where he started second and finished sixth last May.
“The joke is that we’ve won every race we’ve finished. If we can keep doing that, we’ll be all right,” said Hinchcliffe, whose victories at St. Petersburg and Sao Paulo sandwiched DNFs at Barber and Long Beach. “Heading into the ovals, Andretti Autosport had competitive cars at Indy last year. We improved over the winter. Obviously, everyone else will have as well. If we can keep our momentum up, a day like today proves that when things aren’t necessarily going your way, if you keep fighting, don’t give up, you can end up on top.”