Race Report: Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix
PHOENIX April 2, 2016—Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth weathered a difficult weekend as the Verizon IndyCar Series returned to Phoenix International Raceway’s one mile oval for the first time since 2005.
Sato, who crashed hard in the beginning of Friday’s practice, sat out the rest of the day as the ABC Supply crew worked into the night repairing the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda which was heavily damaged in the accident. Sato wasn’t injured, but he was unable to qualify and also missed the final practice Friday evening. He was given a five minute practice session Saturday afternoon so the team could check out the car at speed.
Starting 20th, Sato gained a couple of spots on restarts but for the most part, he found it difficult to pass cars because the track had just a single racing line. Through solid pit stops—and a bit of attrition, he finished 15th.
“It was a tough weekend for all of us” Sato said. “The ABC boys did a great job putting the car back together. We had just a couple hot laps before the race. They did a good job of keeping everything under control. In the race we were hanging on but it was a long tough night. It’s a weekend we want to forget but it was still a good job by everyone on the team.”
Hawksworth dropped back from his 17th place grid slot at the start but he ran a solid pace during his first fuel stint in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda. A problem with the car’s handling in the second stint forced an early pit stop but the team was able to improve the car’s handling. Hawksworth wasn’t able to benefit from being on a different pit strategy in the race which was slowed by five caution periods; he soldiered home in 19th position.
“It was a very tough weekend,” Hawksworth said. “I didn’t make a very good start but the car was ok in the first stint. We were able to hang in and run the pace even though we couldn’t get close to the cars ahead so couldn’t make up much ground. We had an issue in the second stint so we had to pit early. We tried to fight back but then we had an issue on the last stop. It was just a tough, tough weekend. We made the car better but we just have to put this one behind us and learn from it. We go to two circuits that we know we have a good car and we’re strong at so we’ll focus on Long Beach and Barber and be competitive there.”
Defending IndyCar series champion Scott Dixon won the 250-lap race and was presented the A.J. Foyt Champions Trophy by Foyt himself in Victory Lane Saturday night. The track management named the perpetual trophy after Foyt who won the track’s inaugural race in 1964.
Second through fifth were Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Tony Kanaan and Graham Rahal. The teams are heading to Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 6 for an open test before making the long haul to southern California for the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 17th.