Race Report: Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2

DETROIT May 31, 2015—There is no “I” in the word “team.” Today that was obvious as Takuma Sato lauded his ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team after piloting his No. 14 ABC Supply Honda to a thrilling second-place finish in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Race 2 at Belle Isle Park.

“First of all, a big thank you to ABC Supply and AJ Foyt Racing,” Sato said. “The whole team did a really good job and under the difficult circumstances, it could have been one way or the other with the weather. I think we had a really solid environment as a team and a very strong race car—the no. 14 car worked really well the whole weekend. I was able to really enjoy yesterday’s first part of the wet race [alluding to when he took the lead in just three laps]. Today was a little tough because we couldn’t qualify in the wet so we had to start from the back of the grid. We were really steady picking off cars one by one, and we had good pit stops, the boys did a super job on those. With so many restarts, it was a great opportunity for overtaking, and I was able to overtake—it was so exciting! I’m really proud of this association. We fought really hard. That was sport, that was hard racing, and I think it was a great achievement by our team.”

Teammate Jack Hawksworth also turned in a terrific performance to finish seventh in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda after being spun out twice by the same driver—rookie Sage Karam.

“First, congratulations to Takuma, he did a good job, and it’s great to see those guys on the podium,” Hawksworth said. “Obviously our race didn’t go to plan, we ended up getting punted off twice by the same guy. It was disappointing. Not too good in the wet, and then at the end we got the slicks on and we were quick and were able to make up positions but we needed more green time. We pitted and hoped there’d be some more green [flag racing] because the guys at the front would have had to come in, but it didn’t happen for us. But I’m happy to recover for a seventh.”

Sebastien Bourdais won the race at the 2.35-mile temporary circuit. Following Bourdais and Sato across the line were Graham Rahal, Tristan Vautier, Marco Andretti, rookie Conor Daly (who was subbing for injured James Hinchcliffe), and Hawksworth.

When heavy rain washed out qualifying earlier today, the starting grid was set according to the point standings, relegating Sato to 15th and Hawksworth to 19th. The rain continued into the afternoon and the temperatures hovered in the 50s making the track conditions difficult.

Officials declared a wet start, but unlike the day before when Sato surged to the lead from his fourth place on the grid, he didn’t have quite the same grip level with the cooler temperatures. In the opening laps, neither driver made much headway until the first round of pit stops around lap 18.

Quick pit work by the No. 14 crew saw Sato enter in 14th position and come out in 12th. Hawksworth pitted a couple laps earlier and by the time the pit stops cycled out, he too had gained a spot on the track. In the second fuel stint, Sato cracked the top 10 when a full course yellow came out on lap 37 for a single car crash by Rodolfo Gonzalez.

Since the rain had stopped, the track began to dry and both the 14 and 41 teams opted to switch to slick tires—choosing the softer, alternate red-rimmed Firestone tires. On the slicks, Sato began to pick off his competitors, advancing to fifth by the time the yellow flew on lap 50 for Josef Newgarden’s single car crash into the barrier.

When Daly pitted during the caution period for fuel after leading 12 laps (half under caution), Sato moved into fourth while Hawksworth was 14th. On the lap 54 restart, Hawksworth was hit by Karam, who also collected Stefano Coletti. All were able to continue. When Charlie Kimball punted teammate Scott Dixon into the wall a couple laps later, it caused another full course caution. It was during this lap 59-60 caution period that Rahal was penalized for blocking Sato who’d tried to pass him a couple laps earlier. Rahal was ordered to give the position to Sato who moved into third.

On the lap 61 restart, Hawksworth was punted again by Karam, which brought out another yellow—this time for debris as Hawksworth was able to recover from the spin and keep going. Karam was penalized with a drive-through penalty.

On the next restart, Sato made a brilliant move past second-place Montoya who’d been brake-checked by leader Sebastien Bourdais. However on that lap, Will Power and Helio Castroneves – both of Team Penske–crashed in Turn 2; the race was red-flagged to clean up the debris and allow for a green flag finish.

When the race resumed, there were just five laps left as it was deemed a timed race and ended at two hours. In those five laps, Sato pressured Bourdais but had to settle for second. Meanwhile, Hawksworth vaulted from 15th to seventh, gaining positions on track as well as two spots when Tony Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud had to pit for fuel. Juan Pablo Montoya, who started from the pole and led 35 laps, ran out of fuel on the final lap and finished 10th.

It was the best performance for both of Foyt’s drivers this season. The runner-up finish was Sato’s first podium appearance since finishing second in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2013. Hawksworth’s seventh was his second straight, having finished there the day before and it stands as his best finish to date for AJ Foyt Racing.

Sato put it into perspective when he noted in the post-race press conference, “We had a scary winter [referring to team owner A.J. Foyt’s lengthy hospital stay following triple bypass surgery and ensuing complications], and finally A.J. came back in May, and now this is his third attendance at a race, and we presented him with a good result. Hopefully, we have more to come.”

The top-five and top-10 finishes give the Texas-based team positive momentum as they return to their home state this week for the first time since May 2. The Verizon IndyCar Series will race at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night, June 6. The series’ first race under the lights this season will be broadcast live by CNBC Network starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.