SONOMA, Calif. Sept. 18, 2016—The final race of the season proved to be as tough as the season in general for the ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Racing team. The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma tested the drivers’ physicality and the 90-plus temperatures tested the pit crews who were wearing multi-layer Nomex firesuits.
Takuma Sato brought the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda home in 14th place, one spot better than where he started while Jack Hawksworth, who started 17th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, finished 18th.
Starting mid-pack, the team decided to pursue an alternate fuel strategy which meant they pitted early in their fuel window which was normally 20-22 laps. And while both drivers gained track position by doing so, they were not able to maintain it because there weren’t enough caution periods to make the strategy work over the course of the race.
Sato ran as high as sixth and for 30 laps of the 85 lap race, he ran between ninth and eighth but in the closing stages as the pit stops cycled out, he dropped to 14th which is where he finished. Of note were the 14 team’s pit stops, all of which either gained or maintained position for the car.
“First of all a big thank you to AJ Foyt Racing, ABC Supply, Honda, Alfe and all of the sponsors supporting us,” Sato said afterwards. “It’s been a tough season. It started out well but then we had some bad luck. Today the strategy didn’t work out as we wished. We were not quite there in terms of speed but we were fighting hard. I’m very proud of the 14 pit crew–they did an outstanding job on the pit stops today.”
The 41 crew worked under pressure to make substantive changes on the 41 ABC Supply Honda after the morning warmup. However, the changes didn’t work as well as was hoped for the track conditions which made for a long day in the ‘office’ for Hawksworth.
“Long, long afternoon,” said Hawksworth who made two extra pitstops for fresh rubber. “We really struggled with the car which was really, really loose. Ever since we got to this track, especially with the 41 car, the trend has been that I could do one or two quick laps and then the tire degradation was big. We haven’t had a car that was good on old tires and that’s what we saw in the race. I couldn’t make the tires last and I was fighting a loose car the whole race. It’s been a very, very tough season. The guys worked hard. Thanks to ABC Supply for their support the past two years and to everybody on the team. All the best for everybody going forward.”
The 85-lap race was slowed for just three laps (38-40) when championship contender Will Power stopped on track with a gearbox problem, effectively handing the championship to his teammate Simon Pagenaud. Pagenaud drove a flawless race to win the Go Pro Grand Prix as well as his first Verizon IndyCar Series title. Second through fifth in the race were: Graham Rahal, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi.