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Takuma Sato speeds to pole position for DXC Technology 600

by racedaysaeditor | Posted on Friday, June 7th, 2019

Story courtesy of the NTT IndyCar Series; Photos courtesy of Michael C. Johnson

FORT WORTH, Texas – Takuma Sato achieved a racing dream by winning the NTT P1 Award in DXC Technology 600 qualifying.

Takuma Sato. Photo by Dr. Michael C. Johnson

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver circled Texas Motor Speedway at an average speed of 220.250 mph for two laps Friday evening in the No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda. The 42-year-old veteran of nearly two decades competing in Formula One and the NTT IndyCar Series said winning the pole position at one of INDYCAR’s famous tracks made the accomplishment more special.

“Here in Texas, it’s kind of dreaming about it to be on pole,” Sato said. “I’ve been saying that to the guys, that this is one of the iconic tracks in the NTT IndyCar Series – high banking, very fast passing. … To be on pole is great.”

DXC TECHNOLOGY 600: Qualifying results

The pole was the ninth of Sato’s 10-year NTT IndyCar series career, second this season and first at Texas Motor Speedway. He’ll lead the 22-car field to the green flag in Saturday’s 248-lap race under the lights.

Takuma Sato; Rahal Letterman Laingan Racing during practice for the DXC Technology 600. Photo by Michael C. Johnson

“Certainly the team gave us unbelievable speed in the car,” Sato said. “Just a phenomenal feeling to go that fast through the corners. In fact, I was keeping on the lower side of the range. The car is working extremely well.”

Scott Dixon, the defending Texas race winner and reigning series champion, will start alongside Sato on the front row. Dixon was second fastest in qualifying with two-lap average of 220.162 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Dixon fell short of winning the pole by less than 0.02 of a second over the three-mile run.

“Don’t feel like we did too much wrong in that qual run,” said Dixon, a three-time winner at TMS. “(I) got a little bit loose in (Turns) 1 and 2 on the second lap; definitely scrubbed some speed. I think that could have been enough. We were actually bottoming in (Turns) 3 and 4 as well. Always a few things you can clean up, (but) great starting position for us.”

Sebastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan during practice for the DXC Technology 600. Photo by Dr. Michael C. Johnson

Honda-powered cars locked up the top four spots in qualifying. Sebastien Bourdais was third in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda (219.746 mph), his best qualifying effort in six tries at TMS. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fourth in the No. 28 DHL Honda (219.537 mph).

“I actually turned the fastest lap in qualifying on Lap 1 (220.443 mph),” Bourdais said. “I maybe pushed it a little far that lap, so we had a dropoff on Lap 2. I’m just really happy for the guys, they did a really good job.”

Simon Pagenaud led the Chevrolet brigade in qualifying. The pole sitter and winner of the 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge two weeks ago was fifth fastest Friday at 219.355 mph in the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet. Spencer Pigot was sixth in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy (219.099 mph).

Josef Newgarden; Team Penske during practice for the DXC Technology 600. Photo by Dr. Michael C. Johnson

Championship leader Josef Newgarden will start seventh after qualifying at 218.666 mph in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden leads Alexander Rossi by 15 points going into the race.

Tony Kanaan, a winner at Texas in his 2004 NTT IndyCar Series championship season, slapped the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier on the first lap of his qualifying attempt and did not register a speed in the No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet. The nine-time podium finisher at Texas will tie team owner A.J. Foyt for second in all-time Indy car starts with 369 from the last position in the 22-car field on Saturday.

“The car just wouldn’t turn and shot up the track, which ended with me brushing the wall,” Kanaan said. “We need to go back and look at the data to find out what happened. (Saturday) will be a long night for us if we don’t get this figured out for the race.”

Marco Andretti; Andretti Autosports during practice for the DXC Technology 600. Photo by Dr. Michael C. Johnson

Marco Andretti made a sensational save on the second lap of his run, avoiding the same Turn 2 barrier, but qualified 21st in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda (206.901 mph).

“The front (of the car) gave up first and then we had a big save – it was a tank slapper all the way throughout,” Andretti said. “I’m super disappointed; we were on a good run. I turned in flat but didn’t have it. We’ll have to focus on solid stints (Saturday) to get through traffic with the U.S. Concrete car.”

Saturday’s race will be the 31st for the NTT IndyCar Series at Texas Motor Speedway since the facility opened in 1997. Live coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with the green flag expected to wave at 8:45 p.m.

‘What They’re Saying’ from DXC Technology 600 qualifying

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Team Penske Chevrolet, NTT IndyCar Series points leader): “It was an all right day. Not enough speed today. It seemed like once it came time to go fast, we were a little short. The car feels great, though, and I think we’re going to have a great race car. The Chevy engine feels awesome in the pack and it’s fun to have Fitzgerald USA back. Hopefully, we’ll have a great race for these guys this weekend. I feel confident and I think we’re going to have a great race car for tomorrow night.”

MATHEUS LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Tough day here at the track, to be honest. This place is very intimidating, and when you don’t feel very comfortable in the car, it’s just harder and harder and harder. We’ve been struggling since practice and now qualifying was not very good. I’m just a little bit frustrated. We want to do good at this place and do good in front of the home crowd, so we’ll work to have a better car for the race.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): “Great effort by everyone on the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team. The No. 5 car is quick – maybe even more pace than we were expecting in qualifying. We were really focused on our race car in practice, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. I’ll be honest, I made a little mistake on Lap 1, and that’s why the time came on Lap 2, so I’m kicking myself for that. I’m really confident in our race car. Obviously, on Lap 2 it all came together and we know there’s speed there. Over the 600 kilometers, I think the No. 5 car is going to be pretty solid.” 

MARCUS ERICSSON (No. 7 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda):“Obviously, coming from a very strong Practice 2, we were hoping for a bit more, but it was still a decent run. The Arrow car felt good out there, we just need to analyze the data a bit to see why the speed wasn’t as good as we were expecting. Nevertheless, it’s still a learning process for me. I’m still learning every time I’m out there on the ovals. For tomorrow, from where we’re starting, we can still have a good result. It’s a track where you can really race and we’ve felt really good in traffic, so I’m looking forward to it.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I think we just came up short by about a hundredth of a second. Great effort by the whole team and the PNC Bank crew today. Conditions are tricky from night to day. We’ve been chasing it this weekend, too. Obviously, the conditions are a bit different than what we’ll see in the race, but I’m optimistic we have a good car and we’ll be ready to fight tomorrow.”

FELIX ROSENQVIST (No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “It’s fun qualifying on an oval like this. There is a lot of tension building up. The NTT DATA car had a bit of understeer and I tried to use my tools in the car to make adjustments. I think it was pretty good coming out of practice last night and today. I think we’re just learning and learning and getting more laps, and trying to build on that and have some consistency heading into the race tomorrow night.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The car had a bit of understeer; it was a bit of everything. I tried to go in late, but unfortunately, the front didn’t work the way I wanted it to and had a little moment early on during my first lap, so I was lacking some confidence for the second. We have a lot of work ahead of us tomorrow, but we know we have a plan in place to make the Verizon Chevy really strong for the race.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “The car just wouldn’t turn and shot up the track, which ended with me brushing the wall. We need to go back and look at the data to find out what happened. Tomorrow will be a long night for us if we don’t get this figured out for the race.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Fleet Cost & Care Honda):  “The run was good. The Fleet Cost & Care Honda was pretty good, but I had a little bit of understeer and sixth gear was a little long, so it didn’t pull. We didn’t trim as much as I think a lot of these guys did by the looks of it, but I thought I would be relatively satisfied if we could start in the top 10. Takuma (Sato) trimmed a little more than I did and he made a good run, so congrats to him on pole. I think our race car is pretty good. We’ll go race tomorrow and see what happens.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 18 SealMaster Honda): “A really solid effort by the No. 18 SealMaster team. Honda gave us great power and we put it to use. I actually turned the fastest lap in qualifying on Lap 1. I maybe pushed it a little far that lap, so we had a dropoff on Lap 2. I’m just really happy for the guys, they did a really good job. To start on the inside of Row 2, obviously, it’s my best qualifying position here by quite a bit. Solid for Honda today locking up the top four. I’m really proud of the Dale Coyne Vasser-Sullivan organization and we’ll see what we have tomorrow.”

SANTINO FERRUCCI (No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda): “Our Cly-Del Manufacturing car has been good all day and in practice yesterday. I don’t know what quite went wrong for us in qualifying today, but we have something much stronger than what our qualifying result shows. The second you go through Turns 1 and 2 the first time and the car is doing something you’re not quite expecting, you just want to hold on and finish your run and keep it in one piece. That’s just what we did. Now there’s nothing we can do but race, and I’m confident we have a good race car for tomorrow night.”

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “The balance of my car was good, the car felt really good and I was flat. My car was just not very quick for some reason. That run should have been much higher up based on what other guys’ trim levels were and the way the car drove. I am a little confused at the moment, but I’ve struggled here in qualifying before and got to the front, so that’s what we will do tomorrow night.”    

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “It was a decent run. There was a little bit of discrepancy between our two laps, the consistency wasn’t quite where we want it. Overall, we are going to start pretty high up, so great job to everyone at Ed Carpenter Racing and Chevrolet for giving me a good car. Hopefully this translates well for tomorrow.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s a lot of fun driving at Texas in the DXC Technology Chevy. It’s the highest banking that we see all season long and that’s pure racing. I’ve learned to love it and I think that’s the key there. I enjoy being here, I enjoy driving around this track. You really have to constantly be thinking and constantly be ahead of the (in-car) tools and the race car. The car changes balance a lot through the runs and it’s physical, too, so it’s everything that I like.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 23 Fiasp Carlin Chevrolet): “It was a pretty solid run for the No. 23 FIasp® Carlin Chevrolet. Honestly, the car was pretty good when we rolled off the truck yesterday and we were glad to at least get that one run in last night in that truncated session. We worked a lot on our race car today in that first practice, but we really didn’t focus on qualifying much. Going early in qualifying is always tough, especially after that truck qualifying before us, but we’re happy with our qualifying run. The car really feels pretty good, and like I said, we’re happy with our qualifying, but at the end of the day we’re ready for the race tomorrow night and confident in our race car.”  

ZACH VEACH (No. 26 Gainbridge Honda): “We had a pretty clean run, but we were early and it wasn’t fast enough to hold up. The team’s done an incredible job – the car is good. We lost an engine at the end of the final practice, so our qualifying run was the very first run on this engine. Usually they take about 10 laps to figure out the power levels, and we just didn’t have that. It’s a little hard to get it just right for qualifying when you only have two laps, but I think we did a great job.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 GESS / Capstone Honda): “It was a disappointing run for the GESS / Capstone car, I think we had a faster car than qualifying showed. We missed it on Lap 1, we’ll look and see why that was tonight and go from there. It’s fast laps, but there’s a chance to make up spots tomorrow.”

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): “Overall, the run was pretty good, I think. We put a good No. 28 DHL Honda out there today. We have a lot more speed than we had at Indy and I’m definitely happy about that. We need to just focus on the race from here – hopefully, have a good race car tomorrow night, make a bunch of good stops and keep going.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda, NTT P1 Award winner): “I’d like to say a great thank you to the team, (for the) great opportunity. I want to thank ABeam Consulting, my primary sponsor, and Mi-Jack. It’s been a great weekend. Here in Texas, I’ve been kind of dreaming about it, be on pole. I’ve been saying that to the guys, that this is one of the iconic tracks in NTT IndyCar Series, with high banking and very fast passing. You never know (who will win) until the very last lap. You see Graham Rahal won by one corner or something from (James) Hinchcliffe a couple years ago. Really, maybe at the end of the day, front row here is safer. Obviously, you can control the race, which is the biggest part. But for the end of the result in tomorrow night, it will be completely different scenario. To be on pole is great. But at this track, you can do completely anything possible from the back row. But certainly, the team gave us unbelievable speed in the car. Just a phenomenal feeling to go that fast through the corners. In fact, I was keeping on the lower side of the range. The car was working extremely well. Huge credit to engineering side, and my engineer, of course, Eddie Jones. I was very happy for the boys, too.”

CONOR DALY (No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet): “We tried to trim out a little bit, but to be completely honest with you, I just can’t feel the rear of this car at all and that’s hard. You know it’s just a process and we’ve really only had about an hour to work through everything. It’s just a completely different way that the car feels than what I’m used to, but sometimes different teams work in different ways and there’s nothing wrong with it – it’s just different. The Carlin guys have been great and it’s been very cool to be in the No. 59 Gallagher Carlin Chevrolet this weekend, we just have some work to do. Obviously, Charlie (Kimball) can make it work and this is a car that’s he’s comfortable in, but for my driving style it’s just been really difficult to get used to. We’re just going to try and use the race tomorrow night as an extended test session to figure out more things that are better suited for my driving style.”  
COLTON HERTA (No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda): “We missed it a bit in qualifying today. What’s more important is that we have a great race car, which is more important than having a good qualifying car. It should be a great race tomorrow, so hopefully, the No. 88 GESS Capstone Honda boys and I finish on top.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 98 U.S. Concrete / Curb Honda): “The front (of the car) gave up first and then we had a big save – it was a tank slapper all the way throughout. I’m super disappointed, we were on a good run. I turned in flat, but didn’t have it. We’ll have to focus on solid stints tomorrow to get through traffic with the U.S. Concrete car.”

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