Firestone 550 at Texas (2013)

Race Report: Firestone 550

FT WORTH, Texas June 8, 2013—Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team bounced back from a problem-filled Friday to finish 11th Saturday night in the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway. The finish allowed him to move to fifth in the IZOD IndyCar standings.

Sato’s problems on Friday began with the gearbox in the first practice which saw him lose track time and eventually the chance to qualify. The team fixed the gearbox but did not make it to the tech line within the allotted time (missed it by two minutes) and thus weren’t allowed to qualify. Sato started 21st in the 24-car field as the three cars behind him were subjected to 10-spot grid penalties due to unapproved engine changes.

In the first stint, Sato moved up a few positions, but by stretching his fuel, he was able to take advantage of a lap 54 caution and pit under yellow. When the race restarted on lap 63, he was running fifth. He slipped to seventh when the second round of stops began. Pitting under green on lap 109, Sato lost the advantage he had gained earlier as the caution came out four laps later. He dropped to 12th when others were able to gain track position by pitting under yellow.

In the next two stints he ran in the top 12 and as the race wore down, he climbed to seventh as the final round of stops began. However, Sato needed a splash of fuel to make it to the end. Losing time on track because of tire wear, the team pitted him early in the fuel window so he could take on fuel and fresh rubber. He dropped to 14th but then was able to climb back up to 11th with 15 laps remaining in the 228-lap race.

Qualifying Report: Firestone 550

FT. WORTH, Texas June 7, 2013—Takuma Sato will line up 21st for the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night due to a technicality rather than being 21st fastest.

Sato’s chance to qualify was taken away when the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda missed its place in the tech line prior to qualifying Friday afternoon.

By two minutes.

“We had a pretty big problem in the gearbox which took quite a bit of time to repair,” said Team Director Larry Foyt. “We actually quit practice early to get back to the garage and start on it. We got it completed but I guess we were two minutes too late trying to get over to the tech line. The guys worked hard and did the best they could but INDYCAR said we couldn’t qualify because we missed our tech time. With qualifying so close to practice, we weren’t able to fix it in time.”

In practice, a gearbox problem arose which the team declined to specify but it was serious enough that they cut their practice short and started on the repair as quickly as possible. Sato ran only 23 laps in practice and was 18th in the speed chart with a top speed of 213.5 mph at the 1.5 mile banked superspeedway. Three drivers  (Simona DeSilvestro, Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier) will line up behind Sato because they were assessed 10-grid spot penalties for unapproved engine changes.

Will Power won the Verizon P-1 Pole Award with a two lap average speed of 219.1mph—over two miles per hour quicker than his practice speed. Second through fifth were Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dario Franchitti and E.J. Viso.

The teams will have a 30-minute final practice this evening. The Firestone 550 will be televised live on ABC-TV starting at 8:30pm E.T.

 

NOTES & QUOTES: FIRESTONE 550 AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team are in their first season together. Sato is making his fourth appearance (and fifth start) at Texas Motor Speedway. Following his 19th and 23rd place finishes in the doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle, he is sixth in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

Takuma Sato On:

Testing at Texas Motor Speedway: “It was productive. The team wanted to try some different setups from last year and we made good progress. However, the track condition was so cold back then that we stopped running before sunset so perhaps we need to revisit some of the items but still it was a good test.”

Texas Motor Speedway: “Texas Motor Speedway is a great 1.5 mile oval. It always presents exciting racing because we run so close and go two-wide which is helped by the steep banking. But recently, it became even more challenging due to technical regulation changes. We have a lot less down-force than we used to have. The idea was to split up the field to minimize pack racing; as a result, there is no more 3-wide racing and very little 2-wide racing. It has become more single-file racing and quite difficult to overtake. Also, the low down-force increases the tire degradation and there is no more flat on the gas so it is very challenging for us to manage all of it well.”

Extra Pressure Racing at Team’s Home Track: “Not necessarily extra pressure, instead, we will have more cheering from the fans and sponsors and the team’s family so it will be more fun.”

Past Performance at TMS: Sato’s best start is fourth and his best finish is fifth, both coming in the first of two races at the track in 2011. The Foyt team’s best finish at Texas came in 1998 when they won with Billy Boat. The year before Boat had taken the checkered flag first but USAC Scorers ruled that he finished second and gave the win to Arie Luyendyk the next day (but Foyt still has the trophy). Boat also won the pole at TMS in the fall of 1998.