Indy – Sato Claims Peak Performance Pole Award At Edmonton

July 24, 2011


Takuma Sato removed his cap and bowed to the cheering grandstand crowd as he walked down pit lane to accept his $10,000 PEAK Performance Pole Award presented by Canadian Tire.

“Absolutely fantastic,” said the second-year IZOD IndyCar Series driver from Japan, who is carrying the weight of seeing through relief efforts for his earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged homeland on his slender shoulders. “My thanks to the team.”

Some credit should be shared by the driver, who earned his first pole on the Iowa Speedway bullring a month ago. Sato’s second — on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn City Centre Airport circuit — was considerably more physical and mental. Drivers had all of 90 minutes of practice before the three rounds of qualifying on the reconfigured course after all on-track activity was washed out a day earlier.

Sato, driving the No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Lotus car, set a quick lap of 1 minute, 18.5165 seconds with about 2:30 left in the 10-minute Firestone Fast Six. The top five were separated by two-tenths of a second.

Will Power, who had earned the previous five street-road course poles of the season and had started from the pole in three of the four previous years here, will join Sato on Row 1. He had a best lap of 1:18.5674 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon (1:18.6442), the 2010 race winner, and Dario Franchitti (1:18.6628) will share Row 2. E.J. Viso, making his first appearance in the Firestone Fast Six this season in the No. 59 PDVSA KV Racing Technology-Lotus entry (1:18.7383), is on Row 3 with Ryan Briscoe, who drove the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental car to a quick lap of 1:19.0267.

Also July 23, Esteban Guerrieri earned his second Firestone Indy Lights victory of the season, holding off Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate Josef Newgarden in the first of a doubleheader weekend at the City Centre Airport circuit.

Guerrieri, driving the No. 7 Lucas Oil car, completed 36 of the scheduled 40 laps (race was on a 60-minute limit) because of three caution periods that totaled 25 minutes. Newgarden, the pole sitter and Firestone Indy Lights championship points leader by 26 over Guerrieri, finished 0.6524 of a second behind for his fifth top five of the season.

Guerrieri overtook Newgarden in Turn 5 of the first lap on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn circuit and was in command through the three restarts.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Lotus, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): “Absolutely fantastic. My thanks to the team. It is quite challenging to go for the pole; everyone is so close in lap times. The Iowa pole was special for the team, and this one (on a street course) means a lot. The warm-up will be the key for the race set-up, so hopefully we’ll find what we need and then try very hard (in the race).”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, qualified second): “I have a fast car, I just didn’t get it done there in that last session. I brushed the wall there and unfortunately affected the car. I think Takuma Sato would have had it regardless because he was so quick anyway, so I give him full credit. The Verizon Team Penske car will be starting at the front row and hoping to stay out of trouble this weekend. I think once you are in the car you are here to race and you give it everything you have got and do what you can.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified third): “My car seems good. Both Target cars have been consistent and in the top-five most of the weekend and unfortunately we just didn’t have enough to get the pole. I that Dario and myself both had it in the car, but it is such a tricky track you lose your speed in the last corner. It is very tough with the heavy braking especially with the tires. It’s a very technical course here. I think if I could have got Turn 11 right then I would have had the pole. I am losing time on that section and we have been trying new things to help improve. Hopefully tomorrow I can try a few different lines and see if that will help out as well.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified fourth): “This track is tricky I don’t think that Scott and I are completely happy with our cars yet, so the fact that the Target cars are starting third and fourth is good for us. If we can fix some of our imbalances for tomorrow we should be in good shape. There is such a compromise between certain corners on the track and others. It makes it very interesting. It is the same for everyone, I just don’t think we have got it figured out as well when it comes to car balance. We will have a busy night tonight and see if we can fix it and come out tomorrow.”

E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA KV Racing Technology-Lotus, qualified fifth): “It’s pretty clear that the program that’s we’ve been evolving as a team is coming together. I congratulate Takuma for a great job putting the car on pole. We have some little details to make the car go faster; we’re struggling as little in the fast corners. It’s going to be a long race so keeping good racecraft is going to be important.”

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Penske Truck Rental, qualified sixth): “It’s a technical circuit and pretty intense. It’s not easy to piece together a solid lap; there are bumps and different surfaces. And so much time can be gained by braking late, but it’s so easy to mess up the braking zones. I love learning new tracks, and I think everyone involved has done an amazing job on this circuit for the drivers and spectators. I was able to get a good lap in Q2 that got us into the top six, and we need to do some work to get better. We need to improve the balance of the car for the race, but this was a really good start to the weekend for us.”   

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda, qualified seventh): “We threw three laps away because we were stuck in traffic. I felt like it was intentional by Oriol [Servia]. The sportsman-like thing to do would have been to move over. Before that, we had some good laps there. The race is tomorrow, so we’ll just have to work hard to move up from seventh at the start in the DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop car.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Penske Truck Rental qualified ninth): “We were hoping to make it into the Firestone Fast Six in the No. 3 Penske Truck Rental car, unfortunately we wound up about where we have been averaging in qualifying. The car is good but we just got a little loose through turns six, seven and eight. We need to work a little bit tonight on that and try to make the braking a little better for me for the race tomorrow as well. I know the Team Penske guys will be ready for the green flag.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO-KV Racing Technology-Lotus): “It was a productive day for the KVRT – Lotus team. I mean we put two cars in the fast six and got the pole with Taku. We started with a different setup and got lost and eventually got behind schedule with our car, but still managed to qualify in 11th place. Not a very good day for me, but a very good day for the team.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): “We’re pretty frustrated with our qualifying run. The Service Central Team has had great qualifying results at the last two road courses and we expected the same thing here. We felt the No. 38 Service Central car was very quick and competitive, we just didn’t get all of the speed out of the car today. The Service Central team will rebound and have a good race tomorrow. We start 13th, so we’ll just have to work hard and pass some cars.”

VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): “This [missing the transfer to top 12 by thousandths of a second] is getting old. In the beginning of the year we would take this as an okay qualifying run but not anymore. We want more. We need more. For one reason or another we keep barely, barely missing it every time. Like always we will catch them back in the race but we have to transfer at least once. We have to.” [On the new track] “It’s a much better track and the race will be much better. The fans will see a lot of places to pass, there’s a lot of hard braking, it’s smooth – there’s a few places where it’s bumpy and slick, but that’s airport/road course tracks so you expect that. I wasn’t thrilled about coming back here on the old track, but now it’s actually fun and you can race this. I’m glad to be here.”

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Dr Pepper): “I’m obviously disappointed with the qualifying result for the Dr Pepper car today. We had a decent run going when the caution came out – we came in and made a couple changes but the No. 26 car just wasn’t strong enough to make it on to the second round. We’ll make more changes tonight and hopefully come out stronger for the race tomorrow.”

MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Andretti Autosport): “We’ve definitely got work to do. We’re just lacking grip. The tires just never really felt like they’re new tires. It’s not good to start that far back in the race. There’s just no temperature in the tires, so we were trying to generate the heat. We’ll see what we can do tonight and hopefully move up the field tomorrow.”

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen): “It’s tough being a rookie with limited track time at a brand new track; it’s difficult to get up-to-speed with little experience. The Novo Nordisk Team didn’t maximize as much as we wanted in qualifying, but there will be some opportunities tomorrow for strategy and opportunities to pass. We’ll just have to keep out the No. 83 Novo Nordisk car our of trouble and keep moving forward during the race.”

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): “Without having had any practice time yesterday, I think we got the most out of the GoDaddy car that we could. We had two solid practice sessions today but the car was inconsistent during our qualifying run. I believe we will be better tomorrow during the race.”

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America): “It was a great thing to make the Firestone Fast 12 again for the third straight race. We definitely improved on our times from the morning practice sessions. I think being rained out yesterday hurt us a bit because it took away a full day of practice on this new track configuration. The #19 Boy Scouts of America team did another great job giving me a great car for qualifying.”

JAMES JAKES (No. 18 Acorn Stairlifts): “It was a much better run in the afternoon thanks to the #18 Acorn Stairlifts team. It’s a shame we couldn’t make it into the Fast 12 to reward them for all their hard work. We made a lot of changes after the first two practice sessions and the car was so much better to drive in qualifying. I think we have a good car for the race tomorrow.”

ORIOL SERVIA, No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing: “With two minutes to go in qualifying, everybody is trying to put a lap together – I’m trying to put a lap together. I was doing my best. With the sessions being so short, everybody runs at the end. We were both trying to put a lap in with a minute to go. I don’t know if he wanted me to just disappear and give him a chance to do it and not me. He was the one behind and he had a chance to slow down the lap before to build a gap and then go for it on the next lap. I understand why he isn’t happy, he was trying to do a quick lap but I happened to be trying to do my quick lap too. I understand his frustration, I was frustrated too. I thought we had a better car. The Telemundo car was good earlier but we just couldn’t put it together in qualiyfing. Its tough competition, we’re all trying hard. When you can’t advance you start the blaming game.”

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE, No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing): “The first round of qualifying was pretty good for the Sprott team. We were sort of taking stabs at it because we’ve never run here before and don’t know what to expect. And then on top of that, with the yellow that we had you get about four laps to figure out the red Firestone tires. It’s a hell of an ‘ask.’ The car was good; the guys did a really good job guessing on the setup. I came around for my last lap and they told me what time I needed to make in order to get in the top-six and about half way through the lap I clipped the wall coming out of Turn 9 so my heart rate sky rocketed. I was going quicker so I couldn’t lift and luckily we held it all together and squeaked in there and ended up third in the session. It was a decent run in Q1. In the second round we were hoping for an improvement but I just felt like we lost a little bit of grip. I don’t know if it was the tires or the changes that we made. I’m not quite sure but we didn’t feel as strong. I think there might have been a couple more tenths (of a second) in it but if you look at how the times spaced out, I don’t think we would have moved up the grid much — maybe a spot. We made it to Round 2 again and I think our performance is something we can be reasonably happy with. We will just try to pick some people off tomorrow.”

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