Qualifying Report:  Firestone 600

Fort Worth, Texas June 10, 2015—Takuma Sato qualified fourth at Texas Motor Speedway in the ABC Supply Honda, bringing the No. 14 back to the sharp end of the grid at the team’s home track.

Sato, whose previous best start was 11th at this track, posted a two-lap average speed of 216.740mph missing out on third by one ten-thousandth of a second. His two-lap combined time of 48.3344 seconds was eclipsed by Helio Castroneves’ combined time of 48.3343 seconds. Sato will start alongside Castroneves in Row 2.

“We had a sketchy morning but the guys did a great job to put everything together and I felt pretty comfortable,” said Sato. “Working with A.J., he gave a few little tips which worked extremely well on the 14 car, so we’re very happy especially since this is our home track. The race will be a very different scenario because everything will cool down and we’ll have more downforce and more grip available. The car is in the ballpark and we have the final practice tonight to fine-tune the race setup.”

Hawksworth did not have as strong a run as Sato but he ran a slightly different setup in qualifying. His two-lap average speed of 214.568mph put him in 20th which is outside Row 10.

“The car was pretty loose and I thought if it was that loose then it would have been faster than it was because I was pretty much flat,” said a disappointed Hawksworth. “It wasn’t very quick and was really hard to drive so it was a difficult qualifying session.”

Carlos Munoz won his first career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series with an average speed of 217.137mph. Scott Dixon was second followed by Castroneves, Sato and Josef Newgarden.

In the final practice session this evening, Hawksworth found speed and posted a lap of 212.604mph in race trim which was fifth quickest. Sato was sixth quick with a speed of 212.485mph. However, the drivers cautioned that the speed was due to new tires that last just a few laps. The goal will be to make the car consistent over the fuel stint even as the grip in the tires fades.

The Firestone 600 will be broadcast tomorrow evening by NBC Sports Network at 8 p.m. ET.

 

Notes & Quotes: Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway

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

TAKUMA SATO ON:

Texas Motor Speedway: "Texas Motor Speedway is the team's home track so we want to do well there of course. We missed the test there but I feel quite positive about going back to a superspeedway. Texas is a high banked oval which allows us to race two and three wide plus we race under the lights at night so that makes it super exciting for the fans --and the drivers as well!"

Why he likes it: “I usually enjoy racing at Texas. It’s precious, the only 1.5miles oval in the series with high banking and that means it is always an exciting race. Also it’s the team’s home race so we have a great support and it’s nice to see many of the team members’ family attend the event. Having said that, oval racing could be so much fun when car works well but if the car is not very friendly then it could be quite difficult to enjoy. We had tough races in last few seasons here so hopefully we have a strong package and enjoy this special race.”

Correlation between Indy and Texas: “The basics work similar so there is correlation between Indy and Texas but the banking is quite different so we need to adjust details for that. We also have to use different aero configuration by regulation so we need to go through a few test items and a lot of preparation work has to be done before heading to Texas.”

Is night racing more difficult because of shadows? “Not necessarily as long as there is a good lighting facility. The difficult part is the sunset time. If one banking still has sun light and the other one does not, then it’s hard. It used to be incredibly difficult when we had to drive towards the sun because you just can’t see properly in backlight, but recently the league waits until sunset for safety reasons so that part is less of an issue.”

How he keeps up team morale during frustrating season: “Just keep working hard with engineers and whole team. I have never doubted that we can win races again! We have a great potential so we just need to study and analyze what part didn’t work and why, so we can make continuous progress and make car faster.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:

Texas Motor Speedway: "Texas is always fun, especially under the lights and if the grip allows then it opens up multiple lanes for the drivers to use. It's the team’s home race and we'll be hoping to have a better weekend there!"

Whether he enjoys racing at Texas, or like some drivers, just gets through it: “In over a decade of competing I have never gone racing to "just get through it". I'm absolutely confident that if we can develop a good race car in practice then I can compete with the best of them. We had a disaster mechanically [broken front suspension] during the race here last year but this is a new year and I know the whole team would love to get a result on home soil in beautiful Texas. “

Correlation between Indy and Texas: “I don't know how much correlation there really is. The track surface is much rougher in Texas, the banking is much steeper and we also run a slightly different aero configuration. I would compare Texas more to a Fontana/Iowa type circuit in terms of setup.”

Is night racing more difficult because of shadows? “It can be a bit tricky during the sunset period of the race as the sun is very low and can make visibility in one direction pretty tricky. Once it's dark, visibility is actually fine. We have some dark tear-offs on our helmets to help deal with the sun initially.”

Prior experience with night racing before IndyCar races: “I raced at night in 2012 during the Star Mazda season. I raced at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis the night before the Indy 500.”

How he keeps up team morale during frustrating season: “As a driver you just have to focus on the job ahead, keep hitting the reset button and do the best job you can for the team. A good weekend in Texas would certainly give everybody that boost!”

Past Performance at Texas Motor Speedway: Sato’s best start in six races is 11th in 2010 and his best finish is fifth in 2011 (both races were with KV Racing Technology).  Hawksworth has only two starts at TMS with 17th being his best in 2015 but he dropped out with a failed suspension. He placed 15th in 2014. The team won here in 1998 with Billy Boat and Foyt believes they won in 1997 too but that win was given to Arie Luyendyk by IRL and USAC which was in charge of the scoring. USAC no longer sanctioned IndyCar competition following that event.

Race Report: Race 2 Dual in Detroit Grand Prix

DETROIT June 5, 2016—Race 2 of the Dual in Detroit Grand Prix almost ended before it began for the ABC Supply team bringing on thoughts of déjà vu. Unlike yesterday’s Race 1, it was Takuma Sato not Jack Hawksworth suffering the misfortune.

After missing yesterday’s entire race due to fuel pump failure, Hawksworth posted a strong qualifying effort this morning to start ninth. He got off cleanly but Sato, starting 16th, was not as fortunate. He was hit from behind as cars scrambled ahead entering Turn 1 when the green flag dropped. The impact spun him around. His car sustained a damaged front wing and a flat rear tire but he was able to make it back to the pits. Two other drivers James Hinchcliffe and Max Chilton never got beyond Turn 1.

The ABC Supply crew fixed the flat rear tire first and then brought Sato back in again to replace the front wing assembly. He had to restart in the rear of the 22-car field because he came into a closed pit for the new wheel and tire.

Hawksworth’s team employed an aggressive fuel strategy and pitted him on lap five. His teammate pitted five laps later. The two ran together through the next round of pit stops and were never more than a car or two away from each other.

Hawksworth was running 11th when he made his final pit stop on lap 48. However on his out-lap he sustained a broken driveshaft which ended his day and brought out the final yellow flag.

“I was having a lot of fun out there,” the 25-year-old said after his 19th place finish. “The pace of the car was really good, I could close in on guys and run decent. I felt I had one of my best races going even though I didn’t have the fastest car but we had good in-and-out laps [from the pits] and good passes. In the end the driveshaft broke, but I was having a lot of fun.”

Sato was running 13th at the time of Hawksworth’s misfortune. Taking the opportunity to pit under that caution, Sato was in and out of the pits in under seven seconds. As the fuel strategies played out he found himself in a tight battle for 10th with Graham Rahal with nine laps to go. Sato managed to fend off Rahal to take home another top-10 finish from Detroit.

“Qualifying didn’t work out for us this morning,” Sato said. “I enjoy the rain but not in qualifying and our group was a tough one. We started mid-pack and at the start I got hit from behind. I stalled the engine and lost a wing and a rear tire. Fortunately we didn’t lose a lap and the guys did a good job to replace both the tire and front on two consecutive stops. We worked our way through the field. The car was competitive but we’re missing something because it was inconsistent which was difficult. Glad to get a Top 10 after the start but it’s frustrating because at one stage we were looking good and the strategy was good but it was a difficult race.”

Will Power won the race after his teammate Simon Pagenaud won the pole and finished second. Third through fifth were Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden and Scott Dixon.

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads south to compete in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night, June 10. The race will be broadcast live by NBC Sports Network starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Race Report: Race 1/Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

DETROIT June 4, 2016—The first race of this weekend’s doubleheader Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle did not go as well as expected for the ABC Supply team.

Jack Hawksworth never turned a lap in the No. 41 Honda as the car failed to start. Further investigation showed a fuel pump failure.

Team president Larry Foyt said, “The fuel pump failed in car 41 as it left for the start of the race. Terrible luck that group is having right now. Tomorrow is a new day and brings a new qualifying session, so hopefully this bad stretch of luck is behind us.”

The team will have to pull the engine to change the fuel pump which is why Hawksworth’s race ended before it ever got started.

Takuma Sato, who started 11th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, finished in the same spot through the fuel strategy his team utilized.

Starting on the softer red alternate tires (as did nearly the entire field), Sato pitted early to rid himself of the tires before they degraded too much. He had expected to run better on the primary black tires but found that he was still lacking grip.

He explained, “After the morning warm up, we needed to change the car to find more speed. But the changes didn’t work like we anticipated because I was struggling for grip and balance the entire race. We pitted early to change to the black tires which we hoped would give us a better balance but it didn’t so it was a long race. Under the circumstances, coming home 11th was not that bad. We collected a lot of information so we’ll be aiming to improve the car for tomorrow’s qualifying and the race.”

Differing fuel strategies played out to Sebastien Bourdais’s advantage, allowing him to win ahead of rookie Conor Daly, Juan Pablo Montoya, Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves. It was Bourdais’ second straight win in Detroit—he won Race 2 last year when Sato finished second.

The cars qualify tomorrow morning. With rain threatening all day, the race strategy should be interesting and varied. Race 2 of the Detroit Grand Prix will be televised by ABC-TV starting at 3:30 p.m.