Firestone 600 (2014)

Race Report: Firestone 600

FT. WORTH June 7, 2014—The Firestone 600 turned into another heartbreak event for Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team. This time the car lost power and caught on fire with seven laps to go in the 248-lap race at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night.

Sato coasted the car onto the Turn 1 apron where he exited quickly, escaping unhurt. For the third straight race, Sato was credited with an 18th place finish.

Sato’s caution flag came out to allow the safety crew to move his car from the track, but it also set up a three lap shootout among the six cars still on the lead lap.

Ed Carpenter held off a hard charging Will Power to win the race for the team’s second victory of the season. Power and Simon Pagenaud had pitted for fresh tires during the final caution period and that decision enabled Power to charge from fifth to second and Pagenaud from sixth to fourth. Juan Pablo Montoya finished third, while Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan finished fifth and sixth.

Sato, who started 16th, struggled in the race’s early going, but the team made changes to the car to improve its handling. In the second half of the race, Sato passed several cars on the track but he was a lap down to some of them so he didn’t improve his position quite as much on the scoring tower. He was running 13th when his race-ending problem arose.

Qualifying Report:  Firestone 600

FT. WORTH June 6, 2014—Under hot, sunny skies, Takuma Sato qualified 16th for the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway this afternoon.

“It was a tough qualifying run for us,” said Sato. “It was a short preparation [for qualifying] after just one practice. We couldn’t take part in qualifying last year due to a small problem we had, so for us it was a bit of a challenge. The car wasn’t in a particularly happy place so we still need to work out a lot of things. Hopefully the evening practice will take us to a stronger package [for the race].”

Drivers took two laps and the combined average speed determined their starting position. Sato’s two laps were 216.756mph and 215.376mph to produce an average speed of 216.064mph. He will line up on the outside of row 8.

Will Power won the pole with his average speed of 218.896mph. Second through fifth were Josef Newgarden, Tony Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya and Indy 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter.

The teams have a 30-minute final practice this evening. It will give them the opportunity to run the cars in traffic with nearly 300lbs. more of downforce (compared to last year’s race here). The added downforce will help prevent the cars from sliding around as much as last year and help preserve the tires throughout the fuel stint.

The race will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network Saturday evening starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway

Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team are in their second season together. Sato is making his fifth appearance (and sixth start) at Texas Motor Speedway. Following his two 18th place finishes in the doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle, he is 16th in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

Takuma Sato On:

Texas Motor Speedway: “Texas Motor Speedway is one of the iconic, very high banking, super-fast ovals. It used to be well known for its pack racing with cars two and three wide all the time but the recent reduction of downforce means it isn’t like that anymore. Still we can go two wide or occasionally three wide but it is very grip limited, so the pack tends to split up and the race becomes single file. So the key to running well there is a little similar to Indy in that you have to make the car friendlier in traffic and minimize the degradation of tires. Also there is a big bump and sudden camber change of the banking at the exit of Turn 2 which is very tricky so it’s vital to maximize the mechanical grip rather than allow the aero package to determine the setup.”

Feeling more pressure at the Boss’s Home Track: “Not necessarily. We always want to succeed and that doesn’t change anywhere we go. But it’s nice to have a good race in front of the team’s and boss’s home state where you have more fans.”

What he likes about Texas Motor Speedway: “I love the sensation of going on the high banking at a very fast speed and racing through the corner two wide!”

What he learned at Indy to use at TMS: “We learned a lot from Indy. The track characteristics are different between IMS and Texas but there are some things in common too. We gained more experience and knowledge to understand what works better with the DW12 on high speed ovals so hopefully we can find a good speed this weekend.”

Dealing with the highs (winning a pole) and lows (being knocked out of contention twice) in Detroit: “Sunday’s Detroit race was obviously a very disappointing moment for us after a great start. Yes it’s difficult to accept but it is what it is and it happened. It’s racing, so we move on.”

Having two races in Texas the same month: “It’s great news for us because we have strong supporters in Texas. It makes it easier for our team’s families to attend the race event and enjoy it. We will be busier, but it’s a good thing.”

Sato Helmet Auction Update: The autographed helmet that Sato wore in the Indy 500 is currently up for bid. The latest bid (as of June 3) is $15,600. Interested bidders can check it out at: http://www.501auctions.com/takumasato Proceeds will benefit With You Japan, the charity Sato founded to aid the victims of the 2011 tsunami. The auction closes Monday, June 9 at 10:59:59 a.m. ET.