Qualifying Report: ABC Supply 500

LONG POND, Pa. August 20, 2016—Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth both posted their career best qualifying runs on superspeedways while qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway today.

Driving the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, Sato qualified third (beating his personal best of fourth at this track two years ago) with a two-lap average speed of 220.067mph. Hawksworth will start 12th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda with an average speed of 218.051mph.

“Very, very happy about our qualifying run,” Sato said afterwards. “We had a very good baseline car. We tested here a couple weeks ago which helped massively and we gained a good understanding for the strong superspeedway package that Honda worked so hard on and it looks like we have a pretty strong car. It’s a lot of compliments to our engineering staff particularly my race engineer Raul who worked on so many details and the car was almost perfect and I really enjoyed running those two laps. It’s a fantastic achievement. Hopefully we’ll have a strong car for the race and have a good day tomorrow.”

Hawksworth, who missed his first race at this track in 2014 due to a practice accident wherein he sustained a bruised heart, was pleased with his run which at the time was fifth quickest through the first 12 qualifiers.

“Pretty good qualifying considering we didn’t get much running here at the test,” the 25-year-old Brit said. “I think we did a good job this morning to get the car where we needed it to be. We did a qualifying sim and the car felt pretty good. We stayed the same for qualifying, not anticipating what the track was going to do but knowing if we kept the starting platform we should be okay and we did. It worked out okay since we qualified in the top half. Now we just have to do the work tonight to get the car dialed in for traffic and drive a strong race tomorrow.”

Mikhail Aleshin won his first Verizon P-1 Award with his two-lap average speed of 220.445mph. He became the first Russian to do. Josef Newgarden was second, followed by Sato, Helio Castroneves and Carlos Munoz. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball and Juan Pablo Montoya crashed in practice this morning but all drivers escaped injury. Hunter-Reay was the only driver to not attempt a qualification run in a backup car. The defending race winner will start last tomorrow.

The ABC Supply 500 will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network tomorrow starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.

NOTES & QUOTES: ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda
Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda

Takuma Sato On:

o Pocono Raceway: “I always enjoy coming back to Pocono, simply the track is awesome and racing here is exciting one. I also enjoy the scenery of this region with its dense forest - it feels so good to be here.”

o What he likes about the track: “This track is great fun to drive, so I personally like Pocono a lot. We have been strong here from the first year so I think our philosophy works well and I really enjoy it. The sensation of speed going into the high-banked Turn 1 is very impressive. The balance of the car changing in Turn 2 and Turn 3 to being more neutral due to less and less banking makes it challenging, particularly Turn 3 is very challenging. The track just gives us great overtaking opportunities too, so the race here is always exciting.”

o The Pocono test: “It was a good test. Unfortunately not a lot of running for us, but we collected very valuable data. We learned a lot about the aero as we will run with dome-skid safety device because it’s now the new standard for the super-speedway package.”

o Putting last year’s tragedy behind him: “It’s hard for us to accept, we lost our good friend. Having said that, it’s important to go forward and because of Justin, our safety’s been improved this year. IndyCar is putting a lot of commitment for our safety environment and the progress has been great. So we will race hard but we will always be thinking about him.”

o How he enjoyed his time off: “Spent another great time in Canada as same as last year…lots of fun activities. It was a fantastic time to spend together with my kids in nature and we couldn’t ask for any better weather too. It was just simply a stunning time so I’m totally refreshed.”

Jack Hawksworth On:

o Pocono Raceway: “"Looking forward to the race this weekend. Sometimes this one can be action-packed and sometimes it can be pretty strung out. Judging by last year, I expect it to be more of the former which should be good for the fans. With it being an ABC Supply-sponsored race it will be extra special for our team. Hopefully we have a good weekend and give them something to cheer about."

o Third time the charm? Why he expects a better outcome at Pocono: “Last year we had good pace in the race but unfortunately we lost a rear wheel after the first pit stop and we were then several laps down. We were then cutting through the field well before Kimball turned in on me as I tried to unlap myself into Turn 1. If we can have that kind of race car again without the issues then I believe it will be a fine race for us.”

o The Pocono test: “Unfortunately we didn't get to hit many of our test items during the day but we will try to recover the situation on Saturday and put ourselves in a position to go forward in the race. I think we have a relatively ok starting point but we will need to do a lot of work, especially in traffic.”

o How he enjoyed his time off: “I spent some time in Greece on island called Zante with some of my family and friends who live out there. It was a lot of fun, we spent most of our time at the beach and by the pool!”

 

A.J. Foyt will be at Pocono this year: Last year Foyt underwent surgery August 10 due to a staph infection in his right artificial knee. He missed the final two races of the season.

Race Report: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio July 31, 2016—‘Is there a bullseye on our ABC Supply Hondas?’ After running in the top five for most of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, the ABC Supply team may well be asking themselves just that question.

For the second straight race, an ABC Supply car was taken out in the final four laps of the race. This week it was Takuma Sato who was running fourth when Sebastien Bourdais locked up his brakes and ran into the back of the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda in Turn 4. The impact sent both cars off the track.

Sato kept his car running and rejoined the race while Bourdais was stuck in the grass. Afterwards Bourdais took full blame for the accident which happened on lap 87 of the 90-lap event. Sato was able to fend off a hard-charging Josef Newgarden to finish ninth.

Team owner A.J. Foyt congratulated Sato afterwards saying, “You drove a helluva race, but if you’re going to go off in the dirt, I’ll let you drive one of my tractors!”

Sato, who was headed for his best finish of the season and second straight top-five showing, had started 20th but was able to run in the top-five for most of the race due to a great alternate fuel strategy, fast pit stops, a solid car and a little bit of luck with a timely yellow.

“Heckuva day! Incredible job from the team,” Sato said after climbing from the cockpit. “Larry [Foyt] called the perfect strategy even though it was a little bit optimistic when we came to pit. Later on we caught a good yellow and gained track position. Then we were fighting the whole field! It was like qualifying every lap. My ABC guys gave me a super pit stop to get me out on the last stop -- then we were fighting for fourth. It's a real shame what happened at the end (getting hit by Bourdais). We were able to salvage a ninth so still a good result for the second straight race. I’m looking forward to the last part of the season."

Starting 17th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, Jack Hawksworth’s crew did not pursue an alternate fuel strategy as the team wanted to split their fuel strategies. When the first yellow came out on lap 15 for contact between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, Hawksworth pitted with the leaders to take on black primary tires.  Dixon went to the garage for repairs while Castroneves was penalized for the accident and received a drive-through-pit penalty. It was that timely yellow wherein Sato gained his track position and moved from 19th to sixth.

Hawksworth’s first stop went fine but he dropped back to 17th after moving into the top 12. Running well on the black tires, he climbed to 10th before pitting on lap 40 for sticker (new) red alternate tires. It was on that next stint that his car did not respond well and he nearly pitted early for another set of the primary black tires. He decided to stick it out and had just radioed to strategist George Klotz, “I don’t think I can keep him behind me” speaking of Marco Andretti as the two were battling for 15th.

Moments later Hawksworth’s car slid off in Turn 1 – one of the fastest turns in the 2.258-mile road course--and headed straight for the tire barrier, making a hard impact. Fortunately he escaped without injury.

“At the beginning of the race we were holding steady but we weren’t great on the used reds,” said Hawksworth, who was credited with 21st. “We decided to stay out at the beginning and then the yellow came out and we got hosed and sent to the back. On the new blacks I was fine running in the pack with Graham [Rahal], Kimball and Kanaan. Then for some reason on the new reds [in his third stint] the left front tire went away and I had no grip. I was just hanging on at the end of the stint. I think I dropped an outside rear wheel into the grass going into Turn 1 trying to open up the corner and the car snapped when it was in the grass and off I went.”

Team President Larry Foyt was disappointed with the finishes but appreciated the resolve and effort which saw the ABC Supply Hondas running competitively, especially Sato.

“I’m really proud of the whole ABC Supply team this week,” Foyt said as he watched his team pack up the transporters in the paddock. “It was a really tough weekend, especially in qualifying. We struggled for the speed we needed to start towards the front. The engineers kept their heads down and we were able to have a pretty good race car in the race. We should have had an easy Top-5 for the 14 car but we got hit and it put us back to ninth so a little bit of bad luck there, but I’m just really proud the way all the guys fought. We had really fast pit stops and I’m glad we got the Top-10 but it should have been a Top-5. Our guys don’t quit, so we’ll go after it at Pocono.”

Pole winner Simon Pagenaud won the race while his teammate Will Power (who started second) finished runner-up. Third through fifth were Carlos Munoz, Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.

The ABC Supply team is heading to Pocono Raceway along with many other Verizon IndyCar Series teams for a one day test this Thursday in preparation for the ABC Supply 500 the weekend of August 20-21. That race will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 3 p.m. ET.

 

Qualifying Report: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio July 30, 2016—Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato have their work cut out for them tomorrow in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Starting 17th and 20th respectively at a track where it is difficult to pass means that the ABC Supply teams will have to employ an alternate fuel strategy: get out of sync with the leaders on pitting and therefore be in position to take advantage of timely yellows to gain track position. Sato was able to do just that at the last race in Toronto where he started 20th and finished fifth.

Despite testing here earlier in the month, the team struggled to find speed at the picturesque 2.258-mile road course, situated midway between Columbus and Cleveland. Neither driver transferred out of the first round of qualifying.

Hawksworth posted a lap time of 1 minute, 5.0196 seconds (125.021mph) which lands him inside of row nine. Sato’s lap time was quicker at 1 minute, 4.8354 seconds, but relative to group 2, he was tenth quickest and so will start outside row 10.

“Not a great session,” Hawksworth said. “The track got greasier in the afternoon and we just didn’t have the grip. The track was getting better and better as the session went on and I think we could have gone a little bit quicker if we could have had another lap at the end but we only planned for six laps, normally that should have been enough. The track changed a lot, it changed an absolute ton for what we did for the car. We were expecting the red tire was going to give it a lot more grip than it did. The track was really greasy so what we did was the opposite for where the track went basically.”

Sato had no complaints about the car’s handling and found it perplexing that the results weren’t quicker.

“I don’t know what to say,” Sato said. “Everything was as planned. Looking at the lap times, the best lap should be on the 3rd lap or 4th lap-ish, especially for the beginning of the session, the track evolution was quite big. We planned to go to two sets of the reds, which we haven’t done this for a long time but we thought we needed to after practice. There was no major issue, we simply didn’t have the speed to transfer. The balance was good, the car felt good but the speed wasn’t there. There were no mistakes, no moments and it was a hard, solid lap and we still couldn’t make it. I don’t know what we’re going to do but we will figure something out.”

Simon Pagenaud won the pole with a time of 1 minute, 3.87 seconds (127.271mph). Second through sixth were: Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal.

The team will have a final 30 minute warm-up tomorrow morning. The race will be televised on CNBC Sunday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. ET.