Qualifying Report: Iowa Corn Indy 250

NEWTON, Iowa  June 22, 2013—Takuma Sato qualified seventh for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 today at Iowa Speedway but he will start 16th. He is one of six drivers who incurred a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. Despite the 17th place start, the 7th place qualifying run is the best yet for the ABC Supply team; its previous best qualifying effort was 13th in 2011.

Sato had to cut his morning practice short by 10 minutes when an engine issue arose, and upon further investigation, the Honda engineers ordered the engine change. Because the new engine was installed before qualifying, the penalty was applied to this race. Had the engine been changed after qualifying, the penalty would have affected the following race.

The ABC Supply team was under the gun to switch out the engines and make appropriate setup changes in just under 2.5 hours so they could make it to INDYCAR tech inspection before taking their place in the qualifying line.

The crew came through and Sato clocked a one lap qualifying speed of 182.3mph which was 10th quickest of the 24-car field. That speed wasn’t fast enough to make it to the final of three heats - only the top six were taken from the round of one-lap qualifying.

Sato lined up outside pole sitter Scott Dixon in the first 50-lap heat race. He was challenged early on by Alex Tagliani but held him off and in the final half of the race he was closing in on leader Dixon. Sato finished second which allowed him (and Dixon) to transfer to the final (and third) heat which would set the grid for the top 10. Graham Rahal won the second 50-lap heat race and Ed Carpenter finished second so they transferred to the final heat also. The finish of the rest of the cars in the first two heat races determined the bottom half of the starting grid.

In the final heat race, Sato started 10th (last) and moved up to eighth early but then faded back to 10th before halfway. However, with 20 laps to go he began to move to the front but the leaders had opened up a large gap. Sato made it as high as seventh, nipping Tony Kanaan in the last five laps.

“It was a good day I think considering that we had to change the engine,” said Sato. “We still qualified in the top 10. The qualifying heat races were quite productive for the ABC Supply team. I think we still need to find a little bit more speed for tomorrow, but I think running the two heat races worked well for us in terms of understanding the car better than if we had just run the final heat race.”

Sato felt that running in the second heat race gave them a chance to make some changes on the car which did improve the car’s handling. Don Halliday and his team of engineers which includes Raul Prados -- and Buddy Blackburn this weekend—will be poring over the data this evening to come up with further improvements for tomorrow’s main event.

Helio Castroneves won the Verizon P1 Pole Award by winning the final heat race in his Chevrolet-powered car. Second through sixth were: Will Power (Chevy), James Hinchcliffe (Chevy), Marco Andretti (Chevy), Scott Dixon (Honda), Ed Carpenter (Chevy).

Sunday’s race will be televised live by ABC-TV starting at 2:30 p.m. ET. The No. 14 ABC Supply car will have an in-car camera for this race. Race fans with Verizon Wireless as their wireless carrier will be able to access the Sato in-car camera on their mobile device through the INDYCAR 13 app.