It is only the beginning of practice week for the 106th Indianapolis 500 and so far has been a smooth start for Takuma Sato and Co.
The 45-year-old Japanese driver topped the speed charts in the second practice earlier on Tuesday. The No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing Honda ran a lap time of 39.3118s (228.939 mph), taking the top spot from Scott Dixon with only a few minutes left in the session.
Sato is a two-time winner of the Indy 500 and on the cusp of his 13th start in the illustrious event, but this year marks the first with his new team. Sato being fastest is a solid start, with as rookie teammate David Malukas not too far behind on time.
“To be honest, the morning wasn’t as smooth as we wished,” Sato said. “We had to go back to the garage and check up a lot of things because there was some things we were not very happy with. In the end in the afternoon it was pretty quickly, turn around the speed, good speed, and getting more comfortable.
“This 51 car, very happy, and it seems like 18 car is also very happy, so I think Dale Coyne Racing did a great preparation with the cars over the winter.”
The other half of the garage is where the fastest rookie from the second part of the day is stationed. Malukas clocked a quickest lap time of 39.7443s at a pace of 226.448 mph, placing seventh on the board.
With the 20-year-old Chicago native having a lack of experience in the NTT IndyCar Series on the speedways, the two-day Indy Open Test in April was helpful. However, these practices are key for Malukas’ development as race runs are becoming prevalent.
“Yes, very good,” Malukas said. “Starting off the day initially, speedway car, everything kind of getting worn in, braking in, and kind of getting used to the feeling, taking it slow, but going into this afternoon session we’re kind of figuring out where the balance was, and no-tow laps and while following, as well.
“The car handled very well, and it seemed to be very quick, so I am very excited to continue the rest of the week here.”
The numbers are 203 to five. That’s the amount of starts Sato has to Malukas in their respective IndyCar careers and the elder pilot has edged the youngster in four out of the five races to open the season.
DCR has the widest age gap by their pilots in the series. It is also the first time in Sato’s career where he is in a position to aid his more inexperienced teammate to higher positions on the grid.
“I’m very happy, happy we’re working together,” said Sato. “We’re spreading the program and we’re trusting each other. We don’t run with each other together yet, but we feel pretty comfortable with each other. So next few days will be extremely important.
“Every day is important, of course, and then let’s see how much we can pull out the speed. But in the race will be very different, so we need to study a lot.”
Malukas is also fond of working with his first IndyCar teammate.
“A lot, actually,” he said. “I’ve watched many videos, and he keeps giving me tips and also giving me motivation, especially after that Saturday race going away from ovals. He congratulated me because he said it was a very tough race. No, I wouldn’t want any other teammate, especially for my rookie year. Takuma has been very helpful.”