Testing Report: Sebring International Raceway

SEBRING, FL Feb 19, 2013—Takuma Sato got off to a good start in the no. 14 ABC Supply Honda as he was quickest among the 13 drivers who were testing at Sebring International Raceway today. The private test was Sato’s first time in A.J. Foyt’s car and his first time back in an Indy car since the final race of the season last September.

"It was nice to get back in the car after the winter break--it felt really good,” Sato said. “The team started with a setup they knew, and I needed to feel the difference from what I've experienced--which I did feel some differences. Then we moved on to the testing program and various setup changes. They weren't always positive but we learned from the negative changes too. It was a very solid morning. In the afternoon we were constantly learning. We did lots of miles today so the car was very reliable and we were able to get through most of our program.

“I'm happy that we did some good lap times at the end of the day but it is only testing,” Sato said. “Still it's encouraging and a nice boost for the ABC Supply team. Everyone worked well together so it was a good day."

Sato turned in a quick lap of 51.947 seconds to edge out fellow Honda-powered driver Scott Dixon, who clocked in at 52.017 seconds. Will Power was the quickest Chevy-powered driver (52.153) while Dario Franchitti’s Honda turned a 52.322 lap. Justin Wilson was fifth quickest (52.327) to give Honda four of the top five spots.

Team Director Larry Foyt was pleased by the ABC Supply team’s effort, saying, “It’s just testing but what’s good is that we feel like we made progress all day and made the car better. Some things we did in the off season seemed to correlate to the race track which is what you hope when you do off track testing. The crew worked well together; it was great to pick up where we felt we left off--even with the new driver. Takuma did a good job, gave great feedback today which really helped Don and A.J. make the changes.”

Other drivers participating in the test session were Tony Kanaan (52.381), Helio Castroneves (52.410), Graham Rahal (52.413), Charlie Kimball (52.439), Simona de Silvestro (52.442), Josef Newgarden (52.498), A.J. Allmendinger (52.618) and Oriol Servia (52.690).

Allmendinger, who competed and won in Indy cars before switching to NASCAR in 2007, didn’t take long to get acclimated to Indy cars again wheeling the Penske Chevy. Ironically, up until today, he had never met Foyt. Allmendinger tweeted earlier in the day: “Very cool and a honor this morning getting to meet A.J. Foyt. Finally was able to meet the person I was named after.”

The original “A.J.” was happy to meet the young driver but even happier with his team’s performance today. “The test went real good for us today,” Foyt said. “We got Takuma comfortable and he ran down in the 51-second bracket which no one else did. He did a good job. We ran a lot different shock combination than we have in the past because of the stuff we learned over the winter and I think it really paid off.”

Sato and both Foyts head to Chicago Wednesday to attend sponsor ABC Supply’s annual managers’ meeting and dinner on Thursday. Then both Sato and Larry Foyt head home while A.J. returns to Florida to take in the Daytona 500 this weekend. Foyt’s season begins a month later as the IZOD IndyCar Series kicks off March 24th in St. Petersburg.