Race Report: Firestone 600

FORT WORTH June 6—The Firestone 600 was a quick race with only one caution period but it turned into a long night for the AJ Foyt/ABC Supply Racing team.

Takuma Sato started 13th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda but by the time of his first pit stop, he had dropped to 17th. Although the team tried to adjust the handling throughout the race, which meant adding more front wing in the first half of the race and taking it out the second half as the track cooled down, Sato was unable to make much headway.

At one point Sato was two laps down but had gotten a lap back when the caution came out on lap 84 for debris on the track. However, a penalty for passing the pace car following a pit stop during that caution period, resulted in another quick visit to pit lane for a stop and go which put him two laps down again. The yellow never flew again which meant the opportunity to unlap himself never came.

With eventual winner Scott Dixon and runnerup and teammate Tony Kanaan setting a blistering pace, Sato fell behind and by the time the checkered flew, he was five laps down.  The top-five cars were the only ones on the lead lap. Indeed, the average speed of 191.940mph set a new track record for the 248-lap race. Sato was credited with 16th.

“It was a tricky night, the conditions changed from quite hot temperatures to cooler conditions,” said Sato.” The balance shift was enormous and during a stint, the balance shift was also enormous, so I was out of tools [to adjust the car’s handling] at both ends. We were quick for a few laps but you had to look after the tires and in the end we were still struggling a lot. At one stage we were close to getting back to lead lap but unfortunately the safety car caught us at the end of the pit. I thought we had it no problem, but we didn’t. The officials didn’t penalize us by telling us to get back, instead they gave us a stop and go penalty which was very harsh. And that was it, end of story. So then we just brought the car home. It was a tough night.”

Meanwhile Jack Hawksworth had qualified 17th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda but his troubles started early. A problem with the steering showed up on the warmup lap. Hawksworth dropped back at the start of the race as the car had too much understeer. Hawksworth pitted early and often as the team tried to solve the handling problems which worsened as the race went on. After four pit stops, race strategist Mitch Davis told Hawksworth to park the car which he did after 62 laps.

“We went out and initially the wheel was the wrong way on the straight and that was strange,” said Hawksworth as he watched the race from his pit stand. “When I got going, I just had incredible understeer despite a lot of steering in the car. We came in and wound a lot of front wing in it and that made the car turn but the problem was that the front wing was so powerful that it would just overpower the front and turn the car into huge snap oversteer. The balance was still massive understeer but now it was close to being huge oversteer as well. There was something mechanically wrong and we tried to fix it with the center of pressure but it didn’t work.”

When the team went over the No. 41 car in the garage, they found a mechanical failure in the front suspension.  The result was an ill handling car that could not be fixed on pit road. Hawksworth placed 23rd.

Following Dixon and Kanaan across the line were Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Marco Andretti.

The ABC Supply Racing team will head back to the race shop in Waller to change the cars from an oval setup to street course setup before the transporters head to Toronto on Monday. The Honda Indy Toronto will be televised live on Sunday, June 14th on the NBC Sports Network starting at 3:00 p.m. ET.