Race Report: Firestone 600

FT. WORTH June 6—The Firestone 600 was a quick race with only one caution period but it turned into a long night for the AJ Foyt/ABC Supply Racing team.

Takuma Sato started 13th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda but by the time of his first pit stop, he had dropped to 17th. Although the team tried to adjust the handling throughout the race, which meant adding more front wing in the first half of the race and taking it out the second half as the track cooled down, Sato was unable to make much headway.

At one point Sato was two laps down but had gotten a lap back when the caution came out on lap 84 for debris on the track. However, a penalty for passing the pace car following a pit stop during that caution period, resulted in another quick visit to pit lane for a stop and go which put him two laps down again. The yellow never flew again which meant the opportunity to unlap himself never came.

With eventual winner Scott Dixon and runnerup and teammate Tony Kanaan setting a blistering pace, Sato fell behind and by the time the checkered flew, he was five laps down.  The top-five cars were the only ones on the lead lap. Indeed, the average speed of 191.940mph set a new track record for the 248-lap race. Sato was credited with 16th.

Qualifying Report: Firestone 600

FT. WORTH, Texas June 5, 2015—Takuma Sato qualified in what he hopes will be a lucky 13th starting spot for the Firestone 600, while teammate Jack Hawksworth will start 17th in his second start at Texas Motor Speedway.

“It’s exciting to be back at Texas Motor Speedway—very fast and it feels good after the very bumpy track at Detroit,” said Sato, who clocked a 216.686mph lap in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda. “We worked on various things this morning because we only had one practice session before qualifying and we had to figure out the qualifying trim and the race package. The car perhaps isn’t fully optimized but I think the boys did a good job and the car is reasonably fast, so I will be happy with that and hopefully we’ll have a strong package for tomorrow.”

“We didn’t have a great qualifying run but practice went pretty good this morning and the car seems to be working pretty decent in race trim,” said Hawksworth, whose best lap was 215.621mph in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda. “We have one more practice in race trim and we’ll see if we can dial it in to run up high and run down low because we’re going to have to do some passing tomorrow.”

Will Power took the Verizon P1 pole award with a speed of 218.519mph. His Penske teammates claimed second and third while Carlos Munoz claimed fourth to break up the Penske juggernaut. Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top five in qualifying.

The Firestone 600 will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network Saturday night starting at 8 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Firestone 600k at Texas Motor Speedway

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda
Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda

TAKUMA SATO ON:

Texas Motor Speedway: “Texas Motor Speedway is a thrilling track! It has got the steepest bank in the Verizon IndyCar Series and that gives us a lot of exciting racing. We can go side-by-side more often and sometimes even three wide, although the recent reduction of downforce makes it quite challenging.  I think Texas gives fans and us, as drivers, always great racing. As we are a Texas-based team, it’s our home race too! We have lots of support from the fans and many of the crew’s families come to the race, so I am really looking forward to having another strong weekend.”

Key to success at Texas: “Texas used to be all about how we minimize the friction, but since we have a huge reduction in downforce to avoid pack racing, now the focus is to have very good mechanical grip. It’s not enough downforce to go flat for whole the stint anymore--even with the maximum wing angles allowed by the regulations, so we focus on strong stability in the traffic.”

On racing at night: “I think it’s good for the fans; it is certainly a much more comfortable condition in the grandstand without the direct sun. I personally like racing at night too because it’s spectacular show. From a driver’s point of view, it is not much different from a day race, but we are appreciative of having extra downforce as the air gets heavier with the cooler conditions.”

Positive momentum gained from strong performance in Detroit: “It’s definitely good to have a positive momentum. It’s important to feel positive and happy as it’s been consecutive weeks of racing for a long time. Being motivated and feeling confident is important for a good job and health for everyone on the team.  The boys have done outstanding work in the month of May, and we will continue that for another two weeks of racing before we will finally have a short break.”

The new aero kit used with last year’s rear wing: “The package is different from Indy as we all have to use Dallara’s rear wing main plate from 2014. This was in the regulations at the beginning due to the fact that the Indy-spec aero is never enough downforce for the 1.5mile oval. Although we haven’t run that configuration, the aero-efficiency has been improved a lot from last year so the racing speed will be faster. How much faster depends on INDYCAR’s decision on what the wing angle allowance will be which massively affects both manufacturers’ different aero kits.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:

Texas Motor Speedway: “I really enjoy this oval. It's very quick and the high banking makes for some good racing. There are a lot of different lines that you can take and tire degradation makes the race very interesting strategically.”

The banking at TMS: “It was a strange sensation at first but after a few laps I was able to get used to it. It's incredible the kind of speed it allows you to carry through the corner.”

Night races: “We didn't have a great race last year but I really like the ovals at night. It's spectacular for the fans to watch the cars under the lights. There's a real stadium atmosphere and as a driver that's something I really enjoy.”

Two straight seventh place finishes: “Detroit was a good step in the right direction for the whole team and now with a bit of momentum behind us we should be able to keep on improving. Detroit almost felt like the start of a new season for us. There was certainly the potential to be in the top-five twice in both races, but we need to execute the perfect race and have strategy fall our way for that to happen. I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do over the next few races and certainly this weekend I hope we can begin to build on the performance from Detroit and keep moving forward.”

The new aero kit used with last year’s rear wing: “This will be the first time we have run the new aero kit with the old Dallara rear wing. It's hard to know right now what effect this will have on the racing. It will largely depend up on INDYCAR’s final decision on how much downforce they allow the teams to run in the race. I suspect tire degradation will probably be less of an issue and the racing will perhaps be a little closer.”

This season’s performance: Takuma Sato’s best performance to date has come at Detroit with his best start of fourth in Race 1 and his best finish of second in Race 2. It was his first podium finish since his runner-up finish in Brazil in 2103. For Jack Hawksworth this year, his best finish of seventh came in both races in Detroit, while his best start of eighth came in New Orleans. Hawksworth has been plagued by red flags (for others) during his qualifying sessions this year. This Firestone 600 will be Sato’s 95th IndyCar race and Hawksworth’s 26th race.