The former Formula 1 driver, now a 12-year veteran of the IndyCar Series, has six wins to his name, two of which are at the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport in 2017 and RLL last season.
Although Coyne insisted that there are still “four or five drivers in the mix” for a DCR seat in 2022, he agreed that the idea of running Sato was highly appealing.
“I think we’ve run strong cars at Indy for several years now, and we’ve had drivers who we thought could do them justice,” Coyne told Autosport.
“And they showed speed – Sebastien [Bourdais], Ed Jones, Alex Palou… and going back a bit further, Justin Wilson.
“But obviously it’s one thing to think your guys can win it for you, and another thing to know you have an Indy 500 winner – a two-time winner – in your car. Takuma won Indy two times in four years! That’s huge. And the most recent win was just last year.
“So yes, I think he’d be very strong for us in the 500. It’s a good sign that he’s already won it for two different teams.
“But obviously there’s a lot of other tracks on the schedule where I think Takuma would be strong. He won Long Beach for A.J. Foyt , he’s won on a short oval [Gateway for RLL in 2019] and he’s won on road courses [Barber Motorsports Park and Portland for RLL in 2018].”
Takuma Sato, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images
Asked if he thought Sato, now 44, might be past his prime, Coyne referenced 46-year-old Helio Castroneves inking a deal to return to the series full-time with Meyer Shank Racing next year after winning his fourth Indy 500 in May.
“Who won the Indy 500 this year? And what age is he?” Coyne said.
“You see some of the best guys in IndyCar are over 40 now – [Scott] Dixon, [Will] Power – but they’re still winners.
“Takuma is as fit as anyone, and he’s still hugely enthusiastic. If you put him with an engineer who listens and appreciates him, I think he listens and appreciates technical exchanges. He has a lot to contribute but he’s open to ideas, too.”
Asked what it would take to get the deal done, Coyne replied: “There are some important details to finalise. I’d say we’re 80 percent there. But there’s willingness on both sides to make it happen, and that helps.”
The vacancy in the #51 Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing entry has arisen with Romain Grosjean’s imminent departure to Andretti Autosport for 2022.
Meanwhile, Jack Harvey is expected to be confirmed as Graham Rahal teammate next year at RLL, while the squad auditions other drivers for its new third full-time entry – Santino Ferrucci, Christian Lundgaard and Oliver Askew.