INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will return to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing next season. Sato spent just one season with Andretti Autosport and became the first Japanese winner of the 500.
Sato drove for Rahal in 2012 and nearly beat Dario Franchitti in attempting to win the Indy 500 that year. Sato crashed on the final lap trying to pass Franchitti for the lead.
The Tokyo native has made 135 starts in the IndyCar Series since his rookie season in 2010. He has two victories, the Indy 500 and at Long Beach in 2013, and six podium finishes. Sato competed in 90 Formula One races between 2002 and 2008 and had a career-best finish of third in the 2003 United States Grand Prix.
Sato has a strong alliance with Honda and needed a contingency plan in case Andretti moved to Chevrolet for 2018. By the time Andretti decided to stay with Honda, Sato had already agreed to a deal with Rahal.
"I'm excited about having Taku back with us," Bobby Rahal said. "I have such admiration for his spirit and how he approaches everything and was so happy for him when he won the Indy 500 this year. The chance to bring him back to the team was too good to pass up."
Zach Veach will replace Sato at Andretti.
Also, Chip Ganassi Racing will return to a two-car team in the IndyCar Series next season.
Scott Dixon will return as driver of the No. 9, and the team said a driver for the No. 10 will be announced later. It is widely believed that New Zealand's Brendon Hartley will take over that seat.
Tony Kanaan is expected to move to A.J. Foyt Racing, and it is not clear what Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton will do next season.
Ganassi said the decision to downsize caused layoffs at his organization, but he needed to focus on fielding "two championship caliber teams." Only Dixon was in title contention this season.
Josef Newgarden gave Ganassi rival Roger Penske a second consecutive IndyCar championship on Sunday. Penske had all four of its drivers in contention for the title.