2013 Season Review

With the 2013 season now in the record books, it is time to review the highlights of the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team!

When ex-Formula One driver Takuma Sato of Tokyo, Japan joined the team, the news surprised nearly everyone in the IndyCar paddock, especially several seasoned media personalities who questioned the decision. Those questions were quickly put to rest as Sato consistently emerged as one of the fastest drivers in pre-season testing and then confirming those results by qualifying second in the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Two races later, Sato scored his first IndyCar victory in the prestigious Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, turning in a flawless drive which was complemented by equally flawless work in the pits. Next stop was Sao Paulo, Brazil wherein the team was one corner away from scoring a second straight victory. The runner-up finish vaulted Sato and the team into the IndyCar points lead as they headed to Indianapolis.Although the team didn’t fare as well as they hoped in the Indianapolis 500, Sato finished 13th, a career best for Sato in the historic race and the best for Foyt’s team since their ninth place finish in 2008. An accident in the first race at Detroit injured Sato’s wrist but he soldiered on the rest of the season without complaining about it.

At Texas Motor Speedway, Sato bounced back from a problem-filled Friday (which resulted in his missing qualifying and having to start 21st) to finish 11th in the race. At the Milwaukee Mile, Sato and the team posted their best-ever showing at the historic track, leading the most laps (109) only to have an ill-timed caution throw a monkey wrench in the race strategy. They finished seventh which was a career best for both Sato and the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team since the IndyCar Series returned to racing there in 2004.

Power issues at Iowa resulted in a DNF for the first time this season, and a mistake in judgment at Pocono turned Sato’s strong performance into a race-ending accident. A broken exhaust header in the first race at Toronto and a nowhere-to-go crash in the second race (where he was headed for a top-10 finish) saw Sato and the team slip to 13th in the standings.

While the team finished the race at Mid-Ohio, their performance was not strong for the first time this season. In Sonoma, Sato was on pace to score a top-10 until he was collected in a crash involving Graham Rahal. The team repaired the car and returned him to action, deciding they could pick up some points. Late in the race Sato stopped on track to avoid a multi-car crash only to have Charlie Kimball run into him while stopped! Unable to continue, Sato placed 23rd.

When Sato qualified tenth at Baltimore, the effort raised hopes for the entire ABC Supply team. Those hopes plummeted when engine issues forced him out after just four laps. He was challenging for sixth at the time after making a brilliant start.

In the inaugural running of the Houston Grand Prix, Sato won the pole position which was especially poignant since it was A.J. Foyt’s first time back at the track since the Texas race in early June. Foyt, who had spent the summer recovering from left hip replacement surgery, was honored as the Grand Marshal of the hometown event.

Sato jumped out to an early lead but the yellow came out for an accident on the standing start. Sato sustained a cut tire from debris on the track which forced him to pit. He rebounded nicely but was forced into a tire barrier while battling for seventh. In the second race, Sato was headed for a seventh place finish when he clipped the wall challenging for sixth on the penultimate lap. The car sustained suspension damage which became apparent several corners later. Sato was battling to maintain control when Dario Franchitti, with nowhere to go, hit him from behind, sending Franchitti airborne into the catch fencing. Franchitti sustained a concussion, broken ankle and broken back but Sato and driver E.J. Viso were unhurt in the three-car accident. Several spectators sustained minor injuries from flying debris and broken catch-fencing.

In the final race of the season in Fontana, Calif., Sato had to start 25th after missing qualifying due to a crash in practice. In the race, he moved up to 13th just past the halfway point but then his car lost power, ending his race. He placed 17th in the final standings.

Team Director Larry Foyt assessed the season, saying, "I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish this season. In our first team meeting of 2013, we set the goal of getting our first victory in over 10 years, and together we worked hard and got the result. We experienced the feeling of leading the championship, as well as the feeling of a brutal slump, and this experience will help us become a championship caliber team. We were competitive on 90% of the circuits, and this gives me confidence that hard work over the winter will lead to an even more successful 2014."