Sato Wins Pole for Foyt, Has Trouble in Race 1 at Houston’s Reliant Park

HOUSTON Oct. 5, 2013—Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team gave owner A.J. Foyt a warm welcome back by winning the pole for Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston, and earning their first Verizon P1 Award of the season.

“Fantastic start to our day,” said Sato.  “It is great to put the number 14 back at the front.  We made really good progress yesterday and in this morning’s early 10 minute practice.  We adjusted very well for qualifying and you can see the result.  The ABC Supply Honda allowed me to really push on the limit and get the Pole Position.  It was great to be able to do it in the team’s home race.”

Sato edged out Scott Dixon for the pole with a qualifying speed of 97.305 mph in the second 12-minute segment of qualifying this morning at the 10-turn, 1.7-mile temporary circuit at Reliant Park. Will Power won the first qualifying segment but his speed was slower that Sato’s, so he started outside pole. Dixon started third and was followed by Sebastian Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, and Simona DeSilvestro.

The normal Firestone Fast Six knockout qualifying sessions were not held this weekend. Each 12-car group was given 12 minutes (and guaranteed at least five minutes of green flag time) to set their quick time. Since Sato won the pole, everyone who was in his group lined up behind him (on the inside of each row) while Power’s group followed suit on the outside. It was the third pole for Sato in his IndyCar career, and the first for the Foyt team since 1999 when Billy Boat won his seventh pole for Foyt at Atlanta. Sato’s previous poles were at Edmonton and Iowa. In all, the Foyt team has 42 poles, most of which were won with Foyt driving.

Sato took the lead on the standing start but the track went yellow after James Hinchcliffe stalled and was struck by Ed Carpenter who spun trying to avoid the stalled car. Sato then picked up carbon fibre debris which cut his tire forcing him to pit on lap seven for fresh rubber.

“I was able to hold the lead on the standing start, unfortunately, there was an incident on the front straight.  During the yellow to clean up that incident, we noticed that I had a slow leak on my right rear tire from debris.  We were forced to make an early stop to replace it. It was a very tough race after that, battling with several different cars,””

Quick pit work allowed Sato to rejoin the field in 12th spot. He was running 11th when the pit stop cycles began. He pitted on lap 39, shed his alternate red tires and took on the black primary tires. He was running 12th when the yellow came out again on lap 65 of the 90-lap race. Several cars were caught out by the yellow, so when they did pit, Sato advanced four positions. On the restart, he was eighth, a position he held until lap 73 when trouble hit.

“We got caught offline battling with the two cars and I was forced wide and got caught on the exit of Turn 3 in the tire barrier,” Sato explained. “It was a tough conclusion to our day that started so well.  We hope we can improve on this for tomorrow.”

Although the team was able to replace the car’s nose assembly, Sato stayed out just long enough to gain another position before exiting the race after 82 laps. He was credited with 17th position and slipped to 16th in the standings.

Scott Dixon won the race and is now just eight points behind leader Helio Castroneves who finished 18th. Simona DeSilvestro finished second, scoring her first podium finish while Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud and Josef Newgarden rounded out the top five.

The event’s organizer Mike Lanigan presented Grand Marshall A.J. Foyt the first A.J. Foyt Trophy in pre-race ceremonies. In the post-race ceremony, Foyt gave winning team owner Chip Ganassi the A.J. Foyt Trophy. Foyt was then called back to the stage and was given a pair of custom made cowboy boots as were each of the podium finishers.

The Qualifying session for Race 2 will be held at 8:45 CT Sunday morning, and it will follow the same format of two 12-minute sessions. Race 2 will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network beginning at 1 p.m. ET.