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Qualifying Report – Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS May 22, 2016—In the final qualifying round for the Indianapolis 500, the AJ Foyt Racing team experienced the highs and lows of Indy.

Takuma Sato put it on “the front row” of the 24 qualifiers outside of the Fast Nine to start 12th on the outside of row four.  He posted a four-lap average speed of 228.029mph in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda under tricky weather conditions which caught out his teammate Alex Tagliani.

“The 14 ABC Supply crew did a fantastic job after having had difficult days this week, and difficult qualifying runs for the sister cars,” said an exuberant Sato. “We were all nervous about it especially with the gusty winds. We performed very similar to what we had this morning in practice which was fantastic so the engineers and crew did a perfect job and gave me a fast car, a very fast car, so I was very happy.”

Sato remarked to his crew that it was the best car he had in qualifying here at the Speedway, and it was certainly his best qualifying performance at the Brickyard since he joined the Foyt team in 2013.

Tagliani was the first driver in the Foyt stable to make a qualifying run in the No. 35 Alfe Heat Treating Honda. Warm and windy conditions made for a challenging session for all of the drivers. Tagliani lost control going through Turn 4 coming for the green to start his first qualifying lap. The car did a quarter spin missing the outside wall but then it shot across the track and hit the attenuator structure at Pit In which sheared off the nose of the car. The car twirled like a top down the main straightaway before coming to rest against the pit wall. Tagliani emerged from the car uninjured.

“It’s probably the worst situation to be in because I really don’t like to see the guys work,” said “Tag” afterwards. “It’s such a long two weeks of work without any troubles so one problem takes a lot of energy to bring you back. The team thinks we’re going to have a stellar car, and we’ll surprise people. The race is what counts, we just have to forget about it [the accident]. Looking at the data and the video, I think we were on the edge and obviously the wind caught us off guard really late in the corner. That was lucky because the damage could have been a lot worse. Nevertheless, completing those four laps, I think we would have had two cars up there. We were going for it.”

The team is pulling out a backup car and is working to have it ready for a shakedown run in tomorrow afternoon’s practice. He will start in the final spot of the 33-car field.

Jack Hawksworth, who was the next driver to make a qualifying run after Tagliani, was not comfortable in his car in either the practice session or the qualifying session.

“The conditions were hotter than expected so the tires fell off,” said Hawksworth, who will start 31st in his No. 41 ABC Supply Honda. Hawksworth posted a four lap average speed of 224.596mph. “Like yesterday, we had consistent 225 mph speeds, but the rear tires fell off. I kept getting more loose throughout the run. The speed is still not there. We’re still struggling for outright speed. The tire degradation was the biggest problem and what made the cookie crumble.”

As thrilled as he was for Sato, Team President Larry Foyt noted, “We had a tough day right out of the box with Tagliani having an accident, we’re just glad he’s okay. Jack wasn’t real happy with his run but it was really tough conditions. It was great to have those guys go out early and help us make some changes to the 14 car. Takuma did a super job, in fact the whole crew did to have a great run, and it’s a great place to start.  We can definitely win the race from there [12th].

“It did hurt the tub so we’ll go to a backup car for Tag,” Foyt added. “It’s a lot of work for the guys but the plan is to be out for race practice tomorrow to get a good shakedown run in.”

James Hinchcliffe won the Verizon P1 pole in the No. 5 Arrow Honda fielded by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. It was his first career pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series and comes with a hefty check of $100,000. Hinchcliffe’s 230.760mph four lap average came at the track where he nearly lost his life a year ago after a crash in practice. The emotions ran high not only for “Hinch” and his team but for everyone in the paddock who knows the personable driver.

Josef Newgarden and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay join Hinchcliffe on the front row starting in second and third places respectively.

The 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will be broadcast live on ABC-TV this Sunday starting at 11 a.m. ET with the pre-race show followed by the race telecast.