Notes & Quotes: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

ABC Supply enters its ninth season as sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s team. In the course of the past eight years, the company has entertained well over 40,000 associates and customers at IZOD IndyCar Series events. This weekend, the company will have 500 guests at the race on Sunday.

Takuma Sato on St. Petersburg hosting the opening round of the IZOD IndyCar Series: “It is great to have the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as the opening round of the season. It makes perfect sense as it has bright sun, warm weather (usually!!) and a great atmosphere. The track is pretty unique as a street course because it has a nice mixture of technical low speed parts and a high speed section too, plus a very wide runway. The fans are enthusiastic and everyone is excited about the first race of the season. The track facility is great too so it is a very special event.”

Sato on how he prepares for first race of year: “You just hope you can hang in there! Just kidding. It is quite physical as the first race comes a long time after the last one, but I have gone through a good winter training program and a couple of pre-season tests, so that all helps my preparation.”

Sato on the key to running well in St. Pete: “You must be quite careful going through Turn 1 at the start and on the re-starts.  We are approaching the turn from the very wide runway as it joins the narrow street course so the cars pack up, and there is a high chance of contact. Also the wide white lines painted on the runway makes it very tricky on braking and handling as it is quite slippery compared to the asphalt, so you need to be well under control and be extra cautious around others. There are some overtaking opportunities on the track so you just have to keep calm and then there is a good chance of running well.”

Sato on working with new chief engineer Don Halliday: “I like Don a lot as a person and his approach for making the car faster and better. We worked well over the course of the winter testing so it was encouraging. I am really looking forward to working with him on the race weekend.”

Sato on A.J. Foyt: “A.J is always surprising. I laughed so much and enjoyed the time I spent with him during the pre-season but now we are going racing. He loves speed and he loves the best so I think it's a very exciting time for us to try a new challenge. I can't wait to race with A.J. Together we might have another new surprise!”

Sato on St. Petersburg: “Great people, great food and lots of fun. I really like the atmosphere.”

Sato on the “With You Japan” campaign: “It is ongoing and I hope we can continue the support again this year. There are still more than 300,000 people living in temporary housing. It is still a very long way to a full recovery in many aspects.”

Past performance at St. Pete: Takuma Sato’s best start is 11th and his best finish is fifth, both occurring in 2010 in his first IndyCar race. AJ Foyt Racing’s best start is fifth (2007 with Darren Manning) and their best finish is eighth (2011 with Vitor Meira). Last year Sato started 14th and the team (with Mike Conway driving) started 11th but both dropped out with mechanical problems; however, Sato led 11 laps before trouble occurred.

ABC Supply national account Roof Depot, located in Alpharetta, GA, will be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply car this weekend. Owner Terry Dickerson and a guest will receive the VIP treatment this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt.

ABC Supply roofing customer, Arry’s Roofing Services Inc. located in the Tarpon Springs, FL area, won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The company name will be atop the sidepods of the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda. Owner Arry Housh and his guest will receive selected merchandise, race tickets, hospitality and garage passes, plus a Meet and Greet with A.J. Foyt.

The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be shown live at 12:00 p.m. E.T. Sunday, March 24 on NBC Sports Network.