Warning: strtotime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 56

Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 198

Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 198

Warning: strftime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 250

Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 245

Warning: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 249

Warning: strftime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected the timezone 'UTC' for now, but please set date.timezone to select your timezone. in /home/foytraci/public_html/libraries/joomla/utilities/date.php on line 250

Race Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. March 13, 2016—The Firestone Grand Prix got off to a rocky start for Takuma Sato and his No. 14 ABC Supply team but their “Never give up” attitude paid off with a sixth place finish today after starting tenth. Jack Hawksworth, who started ninth, battled back from a mid-race incident and a drive-through penalty to finish 11th in his No. 41 ABC Supply Honda.

Sato’s woes began on the first lap when he sustained a cut right rear tire from a competitor’s front wing. He had to pit for new tires which dropped him to 21st on the 22-car grid. Then it was a matter of fuel and tire strategy to keep him in the hunt; he had one of the fastest cars on the track.

A bold move on a lap 56 restart saw Sato vault from 14th to 11th entering Turn 1. However, a multi-car melee up ahead resulted in a blocked track in turn 4. Sato nearly squeezed through unscathed but clipped Graham Rahal who had spun in the multi-car incident. Sato damaged his front wing and cut a tire, so he had to pit for a new nose and tires despite emerging in eighth.

Hawksworth, who was taken wide on that restart and lost several positions, came upon the incident in turn 4 but had nowhere to go. The track was blocked with at least eight cars involved, making the track look like an IndyCar parking lot. Hawksworth sustained a damaged right rear bumper and rear wing which needed to be replaced. He pitted for repairs--he couldn’t make another lap--when the pits were closed and received a drive-through penalty under green for the infraction.

Working fast, his crew replaced the rear wing on the No. 41 car without losing a lap. Sato’s crew replaced the nose assembly during that caution period too but he could wait until the pits were open to do so. The cars emerged in 12th (No. 14) and 16th (no. 41) positions. Sato was able to move up through the ranks passing several cars and then benefiting from a couple cars having mechanical issues.

Qualifying Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.  March 12—Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato qualified 10th and 11th respectively in their ABC Supply Hondas today but they feel their cars will carry them to the front in tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Both drivers made it out of the first round of qualifying only to have unexpected problems in the second round with the red-rimmed, softer compound tires.  Trying a more aggressive approach with the tires backfired but the team learned from the experience which will help them in the future. The good news is that the drivers are confident in their cars and believe that they will be contenders in the race.

Hawksworth, who was second quickest in today’s morning practice, was quite confident going into today’s qualifying. Although it didn’t work out quite the way he envisioned, he is happy with his No. 41 ABC Supply Honda.

“The day started off well; we had a good practice this morning,” said Hawksworth, who posted a time of 1 minute, 0.78 seconds (106.721mph). “The car feels really good, the guys have done a good job and it’s nice to see that all of the work over the winter is paying off and the fundamentals are getting better. In the qualifying rounds, I think we misunderstood the red tires, so we missed it a little bit there but it’s [the information] certainly something we banked and will take to Long Beach. I think car-wise we have really good cars, both of us.  I believe we’ll have a good day tomorrow.”

Last year Hawksworth started 21st and climbed through the field to finish eighth.

“Tough day for us,” said Sato, who posted a lap time of 1 minute, 0.97 seconds (106.274mph). “The first round was exciting, we had a good feeling on the black tires and had no problem with the red tires in the first segment although the field was very tight. We went for more performance in the second round and it didn’t work, so we lost speed unfortunately. We have always been strong in qualifying here so it’s a shame to miss the Firestone Fast Six but we’re looking to finish strong.”

Sato had qualified in the Firestone Fast Six the past three years in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda but his best finish was seventh, which is where he finished after starting from the pole in 2014.

Will Power won the pole for the sixth time here with a time of 1 minute, 0.24 seconds (107.561mph). Second through fourth were his teammates Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya. Scott Dixon was fifth with Ryan Hunter-Reay completing the top six.

There will be a morning warmup before the race. The race will be broadcast on ABC-TV starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings Time.

 

Practice Report: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. March 11 – The ABC Supply team got off to a good start on the opening day of practice for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

In the first session Jack Hawksworth topped the charts for most of the 75-minute practice session in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda; he was only eclipsed in the final minutes by Simon Pagenaud. Hawksworth posted a time of 1 minute, 1.78 seconds with Pagenaud coming in at 1 minute, 1.72 seconds. Takuma Sato was just six hundredths of a second behind Hawksworth with a time of 1 minute, 1.84 seconds which was fourth quickest in the first session.

In the afternoon session, Sato clocked fifth fastest time in the closing minutes with a lap of 1 minute, 1.32 seconds while Hawksworth finished up in eighth after spending the first part of the session in the top two spots. Posting a lap-time of 1 minute, 1.38 second, Hawksworth explained , “I just didn’t get a lap in at the end—there was so much traffic. I think we have a very good car so I’m not worried.”

Overall, both drivers were pleased with the day’s effort.

“I’m glad to be back in St. Pete—it has a great atmosphere and the fans are so enthusiastic so I always enjoy this track,” Sato said. "This year we have a new package again and the car feels fast and is fun to drive. Looking from the outside, it is quite a competitive field—the pack is very tight. But we had a very good first day and hope to have an even stronger day tomorrow.”

Hawksworth, who won here in his debut in the Indy Lights Series in 2103 and in the Pro Mazda  Series in 2012, was also pleased with his car.

“The ABC car was really good all day,” said the 25-year-old Brit. “We did some good running in both practices so it was a very successful day for us. I think we’ll just rub it tonight and give it a bit of a tune but there’s not much work to do. I think we have a very good car.”

Will Power, who crashed in the first session, rebounded to top the second session. Second through fifth were Scott Dixon, Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and Sato.

There is one more practice tomorrow morning before the Firestone Fast Six qualifying rounds tomorrow afternoon.

Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

TAKUMA SATO ON:

The season opener at a temporary circuit with concrete walls: “I’m not really affected by the concrete walls. Obviously with a new package, there is always a short supply of parts at the beginning of the season so we have to be careful that not to damage them. It is always exciting and fun starting a new season. The race can be rough and aggressive, but the course is fun to drive and race on.”

The testing at Sebring: “Our testing went well. The program was interrupted a few hours due to a minor technical problem, but that was good to have sooner rather than later so we could sort it out before the opening race. We were able to manage a number of good test items and successfully gathered very valuable data. I felt good about the car but it was equally important to work closely together with all of the engineers as we are now a larger, new group. It felt very positive so I am happy.”

How Sebring helps prepare for St. Pete: “Sebring is a good track for us because it is the closest circuit we run where we can replicate a street-course in terms of bumpiness and a couple of tight corners. However, Sebring’s grip level can be too high compared to a street-course so we have to be a little careful that we don’t chase the track too much. Also another important point is that Firestone provided street-course tires for this test which is a different construction and compound from road-course tires, so we can evaluate the car properly. Testing in Sebring is a good preparation for St. Pete.”

The differences in the new Honda package compared to the 2015 car: “The car feels more stable aerodynamically so the new aerokit gives better consistency. Ultimately the performance gain looks to come from the new engine. It’s a lot more powerful than last year’s engine, and it has improved a lot in its drivability.”

The best part of having the season opener in St. Pete: “It’s in Florida! Who could complain about that? I think St. Pete is a great venue for opening the season. The fans are very enthusiastic, the restaurants have great food, and normally it’s warm good weather. Also, the racing is very exciting, the street course is unique, technical, and has a few places with great overtaking opportunities.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:

The testing at Sebring: “We had an extremely successful test in Sebring. The ABC Supply crew did a fantastic job with the car preparation and we had a problem-free day. This allowed us to work methodically through our test plan and we discovered some useful information heading into the 2016 season. The pace of the car came easy and for the first time we were able to accomplish everything we set out to do during the day.”

The key to setting up a fast car for St Pete: “As with all street circuits, their bumpy nature requires the car to be compliant, and it increases the amount of importance on tire contact patch. We have a good idea of what to expect and will aim to develop and fine tune throughout the weekend to optimize the car setup for both qualifying and the race.”

His impression of the new aerokit and if it affects how he drives the car: “The new aero kit is more consistent throughout the corner and seems to be easier to work with and predict. From a driving stand point it is pretty similar, the same principles and techniques for extracting lap time still apply.”

His preparation during the off-season: “My preparation has been relentless for this season. I have worked on every single aspect of my game and I will arrive not only in physically phenomenal shape for St. Petersburg but also mentally relaxed and focused on the key elements to executing every single race weekend. I have left no stone unturned and I am ready to pounce on any opportunity and take absolute advantage of the strides the team has taken over the winter immediately.”

What he likes about St. Pete: “St. Pete has been good to me in the past. I won there in both Star Mazda and Indy Lights consecutively and I have always been very comfortable at the circuit. The weather is good and the crowd is usually strong. I will look to stand in victory lane with the ABC Supply team under the Florida sun come the weekend!”

A.J. Foyt returns to the track: Foyt makes his first race appearance since the Iowa race July 18th. He missed the final three races of the season due to a staph infection in his artificial right knee. He required two surgeries two months apart to correct. Foyt missed the first four races of the 2015 while recovering from his triple bypass surgery in late 2014. He is planning to make every race this season.

Alfe Heat Treating returns as a major associate sponsor for season 6: What began as a limited race sponsorship in 2011 has evolved into a season-long sponsorship of the team for the sixth straight year. Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Alfe Heat Treating, Inc. is the largest commercial aluminum heat treating operation in the United States. The company operates plants throughout the Midwest and Southeast serving aerospace, automotive, military, and commercial customers with both ferrous and non-ferrous facilities.

Valspar signs on for second season: Valspar returns as an associate sponsor of the No. 14 and No. 41 ABC Supply Hondas this season. Founded in 1806 and headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, Valspar Corporation employs over 10,000 employees in more than 25 countries. It is the fifth largest paint and coatings company in the world.

ABC Supply Co. enters its 12th season as marketing partner of AJ Foyt Racing: ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500, and is the second longest active team sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series. With this season, the company ties U.S. Tobacco’s Copenhagen brand in length of sponsorship of Foyt’s team.  ABC Supply has leveraged its involvement by sponsoring races at Milwaukee and now at Pocono with the ABC Supply 500, and by entertaining over 75,000 associates and customers during the past 11 racing seasons. At St. Petersburg, the company will entertain nearly 570 guests.