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Race Report: Iowa Corn 300

NEWTON, Iowa July 10, 2016—Progress. The ABC Supply Racing team continues to make progress at the tracks where they have struggled in years past such as Iowa Speedway this weekend.

Takuma Sato registered his best finish at the 0.894-mile oval today with his 11th place showing after starting 13th. Teammate Jack Hawksworth, who started 14th and ran as high as eighth, would certainly have posted his first top-10 finish here if he’d had just a wee bit of luck with the timing of the cautions. Instead his final result shows 15th despite running competitively throughout the Iowa Corn 300.

At the start, Hawksworth surged ahead only to have “a big moment” in Turns 3 and 4 and he dropped back to 17th as he gathered it up at the end of lap one.  “In the beginning I was very aggressive and tried to go around on the outside which would’ve made a great start but I got very loose in Turn 4 and nearly crashed, so I lost a few positions,” Hawksworth said. Finding his rhythm, he began picking off cars and by lap 30, he was up to 13th with his teammate ahead in 12th. When Sato had a big moment in Turn 4 just four laps later, he lost three positions and a lot of real estate as he gathered it up.

Hawksworth continued to push and had climbed to eighth, due somewhat to the pit stop cycle but as the cycle concluded, he was 12thand Sato was 15th. In the second stint the No. 41 car wasn’t quite as strong, and Hawksworth slipped back to 15th.

The caution came out on lap 109 when Ryan Hunter-Reay saw his race go up in smoke literally. A good strategy call by Team Director and race strategist George Klotz, saw Hawksworth pick up two spots during the stop under caution, while Sato’s team waited an extra lap and lost two spots despite a 6.4 second stop. Hawksworth ran 13th but then reported his right rear was going away so the team told him to pit at the beginning of the next cycle. He was coming into the pits when the yellow came out on lap 179 for Juan Pablo Montoya’s blown engine, and Hawk’s crew told him to stay out. He darted back onto the track but lost four spots as he tried to get back up to speed. However, that choice was better than the alternative.

On the restart, Sato was now 16th and Hawksworth 17th and they ran there until the next round of pit stops began. Hawksworth pitted earlier than Sato and it cost him (as well as a few others) because when the yellow came out three laps later on lap 246, he lost a lap due to pitting under green.

Hawksworth’s misfortune benefitted Sato who climbed to 13th as he leapt ahead of the cars that pitted under green. Pitting under yellow, Sato picked up another two spots, due to the quick pit work by the 14 team.

When the race restarted with 40 laps remaining, Sato was 11th and Hawksworth was 15th which is how they finished.

Both drivers were philosophical in their remarks, noting the progress the team had made especially here at Iowa.

“We’d been struggling here in Iowa the past few years but we tested here before the race and it helped,” Sato said. “We tried a different philosophy which brought some different ideas so we’re getting better results. The team is making real progress.”

Hawksworth, who drove perhaps his best race on an oval to date, said, “Stuff didn’t fall our way today – we got caught out by yellows twice but the car was pretty quick especially on old tires. If we’d been a little more fortunate with the timing of these yellows, I think we’d have been in the top 10. It’s a shame we couldn’t catch a break but the car performed well today.”

Josef Newgarden won the race just a month after his spectacular accident at Texas Motor Speedway in which he sustained a broken clavicle and right hand. Will Power was second, followed by Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin.

The Verizon IndyCar Series heads to Toronto this weekend for the Honda Indy Toronto which will be broadcast live on the CNBC network Sunday afternoon starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.