Pocono Indy 400 (2013)

Race Report: Pocono INDYCAR 400

LONG POND, Pa. July 7, 2013—The Pocono INDYCAR 400 may be deemed a resounding success. After 24 years, the return of the IZOD IndyCar Series to Pocono Raceway was enjoyed as much by the drivers as it was by the fans, who came out to see the Indy cars racing on The Tricky Triangle at 220 mph.

Starting seventh in the 24-car field, Takuma Sato drove the ABC Supply Honda into the top five by lap six of the 160-lap event. He ran there until the first round of pit stops on lap 31 wherein the crew turned in a quick stop which included a change to the setting on the rear wing.

In the next stint Sato climbed to third behind leader Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay and ran there for half the stint before slower traffic cost him a position. Sato pitted again on lap 61 but struck Ryan Hunter-Reay as the two of them came down pit lane.

As Sato explained, “I misjudged it, just too fast… I lost the back end and slid into Ryan. Extremely sorry to Andretti Autosport , Ryan Hunter-Reay and his crew as well as my crew, they prepared great cars and it’s all my fault.”

The miscue sent Hunter-Reay’s car into the outer pit wall but Sato’s car sustained the heavier damage. The ABC Supply crew attempted to fix the car but with the laps remaining and the repairs needed, it wasn’t feasible.

Scott Dixon won the race and was followed by teammates Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti. Rounding out the top five were Will Power and Josef Newgarden.

To put Sato’s accident into perspective, following is the on-air exchange between Hunter-Reay’s teammate James Hinchcliffe (who was out after a lap one accident) and Eddie Cheever, commentator for ABC-TV.

James Hinchcliffe: “Coming off of turn 3 and getting the thing slowed down to 60 miles an hour is incredibly difficult, you’ve got to try to keep it tight, there’s not a lot of banking to help you out, you’re really conscious of the guys behind you [who are still running at speed] and you obviously aren’t using the brakes around here and they’re cold and these things can happen.”

Takuma Sato Qualifies Eighth for Pocono INDYCAR 400 But Will Start 7th

LONG POND, Pa. July 6, 2013—Takuma Sato wheeled the ABC Supply Honda to another top-10 qualifying spot, his fifth of the season. Sato qualified eighth for the Pocono INDYCAR 400 as the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the 2.5 mile tri-oval for the first time since August, 1989.

Posting a two-lap average speed of 219.124 mph, Sato will start seventh in the 160-lap race because seventh-place qualifier Scott Dixon incurred a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change.

“Very satisfied with what we achieved,” said Sato. “There was almost nothing left so the engineers and boys did a great job to put it all together considering we only had one qualifying sim [simulation] in practice and a relatively short preparation time for the new track.  I enjoyed the lap, it was a very busy lap because here turn 1 and turn 3 are so different in the balance you get, so you use the tools [in the cockpit] to the maximum. So you get a lot of great feeling when you’re done. I’m really looking forward to the race.”

With the 24 cars starting three-abreast for this race, Sato will start on the inside of the third row. Pennsyllvania native Marco Andretti won the pole with an average speed of 221.273 mph. He was joined on the front row by his teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe. Fourth through sixth were Will Power, Tony Kanaan, and Helio Castroneves.

NOTES & QUOTES: Pocono Indy 400 at Pocono Raceway

Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team are in their first season together. Sato is making his first start at Pocono Raceway. At Iowa Speedway, Sato did not finish the race after qualifying 7th (he started 17th due to unscheduled engine change). Sato is now eighth in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

Takuma Sato On:

o Pocono Raceway: “I enjoyed coming to Pocono for the first time and driving this very unique oval. All corners have a different characteristic and are very challenging. We’re traveling similar speeds to Indianapolis so the front straight is very fast but you don’t feel the speed because it is so wide; all you can see are beautiful mountains and trees—it’s a very open, airy view. But you do realize how fast you are traveling when you reach Turn 1 which is very tight [laughs]. You’re still traveling very fast as you go through Turn 1; there’s a lot of banking and it’s progressive banking  so it’s pretty tricky. You need to figure out a good line. Indy’s Turn 1 is just a 90 degree turn but this Turn 1 is almost kind of a hairpin the way it comes back on itself a little bit. It’s just a long corner. I think there are a lot of overtaking possibilities approaching Turn 1. Turn 2 for us is just a kink, the same as a straight in that nothing happens. It’s a little bumpy but we can go through there flat no problem. The most challenging corner could be Turn 3 which has almost no banking support--the least of the three corners.  The car behaves differently from Turn 1 where there is banking. With the speedway setup (low downforce) the car does go through the flat corner but it’s quite tricky to control. Overall, I really enjoyed driving this challenging track.”

o Open Test at Pocono Raceway: “In the morning we just went through the basics of the set up because we hadn’t tested at Pocono unlike some of the others so we needed to find out how our initial setup worked. In the afternoon we explored some different setups that you can’t do on a race weekend because you don’t have time. With the open test, we were able to explore and look for a better setup. I think we made good progress and we learned a lot. On Saturday, we’ll combine our good data from today and hopefully we can run in traffic to prepare for the race.”

o The key setup for the race: “You have to focus on both Turn 1 and 3 together. You need to have a good car to go through Turn 3 and follow the car ahead of you closely enough to be able to overtake it in Turn 1. But if you’re not quick enough in Turn 1, then you can’t use Turns 2 and 3 to catch up to them.  If you had to weigh which corner is most important I would say Turn 3. It is the one you need to focus on most to get you off down the long straight, but it is always a balance.”

o Advice from A.J. Foyt, four-time winner at Pocono: “We talked about it before I came here knowing that A.J. is a master of it. Obviously it’s a different time and the track has been resurfaced but the overall characteristics are the same. He gave me little tips on how you set up the car targeting turn 1 and turn 3, some little tricks. I needed to learn the track first to see exactly what he was meaning… I’m happy to take any advice he gives to me because he has great eyes to see really what's happening and even though he drove in a different time, his comments are really accurate and I love it. And of course, he won here four times and is very strong so he is the man to talk.  I wish he was here but he’s recovering from hip surgery. He said he has a lot of pain at the moment but the surgery was successful and he’s doing pretty good.”

o Three Abreast Start at Pocono: “The track is wide enough to do it so it’s fine. It’s the widest main straight that we race on so why not? Turn 1 will be busy with all the cars funneling through but it’s wide enough to go through there two-wide so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. It will be exciting for the fans—if we behave.”