Sato earns Verizon P1 Award for Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Uncategorized — By on March 29, 2014 10:26 pm
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[Source: INDYCAR press release]

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Saturday, March 29, 2014) – Takuma Sato earned the Verizon P1 Award for the Verizon IndyCar Series season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a lap of 1 minute, 1.8686 seconds on a quickly drying 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit.

Sato, driving the Honda-powered No. 14 ABC Supply car, earned his second pole start in his second season driving for A.J. Foyt Racing — and second in a row when the starting lineup was set through the three rounds of qualifications. He qualified first for Race 1 at Houston in October, and qualifying for Race 2 was canceled because of rain.

The start of these rounds of qualifications was delayed more than three hours as a mid-afternoon rainstorm. The March 30 weather forecast is promising for the 110-lap race, which will be televised by ABC (3 p.m. ET).

“Over the course of the winter, we did really extensive winter test program,” said Sato, who started second and finished eighth at St. Pete last year. “Everything worked out really well. We had a strong package last year here, but obviously there are quite a few changes on the car: tires, twin turbo engine. To come this weekend, qualifying, very dramatic weather change as well. Very pleased the league and promoters make possible for the qualifying session this evening because otherwise I would have to start middle of the pack (based on final 2013 entrant points).”

Tony Kanaan, making his debut in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, was .2951 of a second back and was equally pleased as Sato about the effort.

“I think it has been like three years since I have been in the top six,” said Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner. “It feels really good. I can’t thank the Target Chip Ganassi Racing guys enough. A lot of people made a lot of comments over the years because we struggled so much in qualifying on street and road courses and nobody was counting on that. I like to be the element of surprise. Nobody was talking about us at Indy last year and nobody was talking about this weekend.”

Four teams were represented in the final session of six. Will Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, had earned the pole the previous four years. He’ll start fourth alongside Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon will start fifth and Marco Andretti will start sixth. He has started sixth or seventh the past five years at St. Pete.

Rookies Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth will occupy Row 4.

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VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:

- This is Takuma Sato’s first pole of 2014 and the fourth pole of his Indy car career. He has won the last two poles decided by Firestone Fast Six qualifying. He also won the Verizon P1 Award for the first race at Houston’s Reliant Park last October.

- Tony Kanaan qualified second, his fifth top-five start at St. Petersburg.

- Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified third, matching his best start at St. Petersburg.

- INDYCAR has penalized the #18 Dale Coyne Racing entry of Carlos Huertas with a $1000 fine for violating rule 4.4.5 (radio communication required at all times) and the #77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Racing entry of Simon Pagenaud with a $1,000 fine for violating rule 7.2.9 (running the checkered flag).

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