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Driver Start Finish Rank
Sato 15 14 17th
Hawksworth 17 18 20th

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Race Report: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio July 31, 2016—‘Is there a bullseye on our ABC Supply Hondas?’ After running in the top five for most of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, the ABC Supply team may well be asking themselves just that question.

For the second straight race, an ABC Supply car was taken out in the final four laps of the race. This week it was Takuma Sato who was running fourth when Sebastien Bourdais locked up his brakes and ran into the back of the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda in Turn 4. The impact sent both cars off the track.

Sato kept his car running and rejoined the race while Bourdais was stuck in the grass. Afterwards Bourdais took full blame for the accident which happened on lap 87 of the 90-lap event. Sato was able to fend off a hard-charging Josef Newgarden to finish ninth.

Team owner A.J. Foyt congratulated Sato afterwards saying, “You drove a helluva race, but if you’re going to go off in the dirt, I’ll let you drive one of my tractors!”

Sato, who was headed for his best finish of the season and second straight top-five showing, had started 20th but was able to run in the top-five for most of the race due to a great alternate fuel strategy, fast pit stops, a solid car and a little bit of luck with a timely yellow.

“Heckuva day! Incredible job from the team,” Sato said after climbing from the cockpit. “Larry [Foyt] called the perfect strategy even though it was a little bit optimistic when we came to pit. Later on we caught a good yellow and gained track position. Then we were fighting the whole field! It was like qualifying every lap. My ABC guys gave me a super pit stop to get me out on the last stop -- then we were fighting for fourth. It's a real shame what happened at the end (getting hit by Bourdais). We were able to salvage a ninth so still a good result for the second straight race. I’m looking forward to the last part of the season."

Starting 17th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, Jack Hawksworth’s crew did not pursue an alternate fuel strategy as the team wanted to split their fuel strategies. When the first yellow came out on lap 15 for contact between Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves, Hawksworth pitted with the leaders to take on black primary tires.  Dixon went to the garage for repairs while Castroneves was penalized for the accident and received a drive-through-pit penalty. It was that timely yellow wherein Sato gained his track position and moved from 19th to sixth.

Hawksworth’s first stop went fine but he dropped back to 17th after moving into the top 12. Running well on the black tires, he climbed to 10th before pitting on lap 40 for sticker (new) red alternate tires. It was on that next stint that his car did not respond well and he nearly pitted early for another set of the primary black tires. He decided to stick it out and had just radioed to strategist George Klotz, “I don’t think I can keep him behind me” speaking of Marco Andretti as the two were battling for 15th.

Moments later Hawksworth’s car slid off in Turn 1 – one of the fastest turns in the 2.258-mile road course--and headed straight for the tire barrier, making a hard impact. Fortunately he escaped without injury.

“At the beginning of the race we were holding steady but we weren’t great on the used reds,” said Hawksworth, who was credited with 21st. “We decided to stay out at the beginning and then the yellow came out and we got hosed and sent to the back. On the new blacks I was fine running in the pack with Graham [Rahal], Kimball and Kanaan. Then for some reason on the new reds [in his third stint] the left front tire went away and I had no grip. I was just hanging on at the end of the stint. I think I dropped an outside rear wheel into the grass going into Turn 1 trying to open up the corner and the car snapped when it was in the grass and off I went.”

Team President Larry Foyt was disappointed with the finishes but appreciated the resolve and effort which saw the ABC Supply Hondas running competitively, especially Sato.

“I’m really proud of the whole ABC Supply team this week,” Foyt said as he watched his team pack up the transporters in the paddock. “It was a really tough weekend, especially in qualifying. We struggled for the speed we needed to start towards the front. The engineers kept their heads down and we were able to have a pretty good race car in the race. We should have had an easy Top-5 for the 14 car but we got hit and it put us back to ninth so a little bit of bad luck there, but I’m just really proud the way all the guys fought. We had really fast pit stops and I’m glad we got the Top-10 but it should have been a Top-5. Our guys don’t quit, so we’ll go after it at Pocono.”

Pole winner Simon Pagenaud won the race while his teammate Will Power (who started second) finished runner-up. Third through fifth were Carlos Munoz, Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.

The ABC Supply team is heading to Pocono Raceway along with many other Verizon IndyCar Series teams for a one day test this Thursday in preparation for the ABC Supply 500 the weekend of August 20-21. That race will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 3 p.m. ET.

Qualifying Report: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio July 30, 2016—Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato have their work cut out for them tomorrow in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Starting 17th and 20th respectively at a track where it is difficult to pass means that the ABC Supply teams will have to employ an alternate fuel strategy: get out of sync with the leaders on pitting and therefore be in position to take advantage of timely yellows to gain track position. Sato was able to do just that at the last race in Toronto where he started 20th and finished fifth.

Despite testing here earlier in the month, the team struggled to find speed at the picturesque 2.258-mile road course, situated midway between Columbus and Cleveland. Neither driver transferred out of the first round of qualifying.

Hawksworth posted a lap time of 1 minute, 5.0196 seconds (125.021mph) which lands him inside of row nine. Sato’s lap time was quicker at 1 minute, 4.8354 seconds, but relative to group 2, he was tenth quickest and so will start outside row 10.

“Not a great session,” Hawksworth said. “The track got greasier in the afternoon and we just didn’t have the grip. The track was getting better and better as the session went on and I think we could have gone a little bit quicker if we could have had another lap at the end but we only planned for six laps, normally that should have been enough. The track changed a lot, it changed an absolute ton for what we did for the car. We were expecting the red tire was going to give it a lot more grip than it did. The track was really greasy so what we did was the opposite for where the track went basically.”

Sato had no complaints about the car’s handling and found it perplexing that the results weren’t quicker.

“I don’t know what to say,” Sato said. “Everything was as planned. Looking at the lap times, the best lap should be on the 3rd lap or 4th lap-ish, especially for the beginning of the session, the track evolution was quite big. We planned to go to two sets of the reds, which we haven’t done this for a long time but we thought we needed to after practice. There was no major issue, we simply didn’t have the speed to transfer. The balance was good, the car felt good but the speed wasn’t there. There were no mistakes, no moments and it was a hard, solid lap and we still couldn’t make it. I don’t know what we’re going to do but we will figure something out.”

Simon Pagenaud won the pole with a time of 1 minute, 3.87 seconds (127.271mph). Second through sixth were: Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal.

The team will have a final 30 minute warm-up tomorrow morning. The race will be televised on CNBC Sunday afternoon starting at 2 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio

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

Takuma Sato On:

Mid-Ohio circuit: “Mid-Ohio is one of the most popular tracks among fans and it’s my favourite. I enjoy driving this twisted road-course and it always reminds me of the UK’s national circuits like Oulton Park where I was competing in British F3 and I loved that.  In fact, some fans brought pictures of my F3 days as well as F1 so that’s telling you the fans coming here are so enthusiastic. Also we have a great support from the Honda employees and families so that is also very nice. I look forward to having a good weekend.”

The trickiest part of the Mid-Ohio circuit: “The trickiest part would be adapting to conditions. This track is famous for what is known as massive track evolution. The track usually has very little grip when it’s “green” then it starts to grip up more with some rubber down. By the end of the day or the session, it’s gripped up a lot and it affects the car balance and setups. Also some times, the different rubber [from different tire manufacturer] doesn’t like each other [mesh well] which means if we have sports car program with us then at the beginning of the session, the track feels greasy even if there’s a lot of rubber on track. So we have to be proactive with the setups for that condition which is tricky.”

Last week’s test session: “It was a productive day. Testing is always great in that we learn so much. As described above, we have to be a little careful about the conditions as often the test and race weekend are quite different. We had a list of basic test items which is not affected too much by grip level and we should be able to adapt for good balance and speed for the weekend.

Strong performance at Toronto: “We have been strong at street courses in general, and the last couple of years at Toronto yielded good results for us so it was nice to see that we kept that trend. We had good pace at Toronto and the strategy worked in our favor so it was a very good weekend for us. It was certainly a good lift for our team’s morale so we hope we can continue good performances for rest of the season.”

Key to success: “Make no mistakes and have a good qualifying session. Mid-Ohio is a great track but it’s difficult to overtake as is generally the case with road courses. So starting in a high position certainly helps towards getting a strong result, and after having had a good test day there, I’m looking forward to having another good race weekend.”

Jack Hawksworth On:

Mid-Ohio circuit: “Mid-Ohio is one of the most technical and flowing tracks on the schedule. It demands not only a good car in the high speed and low speed sections but also good technique with clean footwork in the low speed rhythm section and commitment in the high speed sections.”

Last week’s test session: “It was positive for us, we learnt a lot about the evolution of the circuit in both hot and cooler conditions. I think we will be able to look back on certain areas from the test to help us develop the car as the weekend progresses.”

The physicality of the track: “There are some high G corners and some technical twisty sections which keeps the driver very busy.”

How much fuel strategy plays into this race: “It depends on the year. This race has run green the whole way many times before and when it does, then it makes qualifying extremely important as it is certainly a track-position race. However, if a yellow comes out then the whole race can quickly be tipped on its head.”

His favorite section of the course: “I like sector two, the flowing infield section. It rewards precision and accuracy and allows the driver to have some influence.”

Remembering NBC Sports Producer Jenny Nickell: The AJ Foyt Racing team will be among the teams whose cars will carry a memorial tribute logo this weekend which features Jenny’s nickname “Jicknick.” Her nickname stems from her ability to come up with some “jick” about any driver she was doing a graphic on.  It’s testament to her wide-ranging knowledge of all the drivers in motorsports (not just IndyCar). Jenny was a pioneer for women in motorsports broadcasting, a passionate ambassador of racing as well as a great friend to many. Her sudden passing on Tuesday, July 19 has left her many friends, including A.J. Foyt, and NBC Sports Network colleagues (and former colleagues at ABC/ESPN and FOX) in shock. Her family is planning a memorial service later in the year as a celebration of Jenny’s remarkable life and impact on a sport she dearly loved.