Race Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. April 17, 2016—Elation and heartbreak. That was the saga in both of the ABC Supply pits today. Takuma Sato drove a great race and the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda team did a tremendous job in the pits as Sato claimed his first top five of the season in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Starting eighth, Sato bided his time for the first two-thirds of the race, saving fuel as his pit strategy called for just two stops in the 80-lap race. Terrific pit work on both stops saw Sato either maintain his position of eighth as he did in the first stop, or better his position as he did in the final stop coming out in sixth ahead of Will Power and James Hinchcliffe. With 23 laps to go, he then made a brilliant pass on Tony Kanaan for fifth. In the final 10 laps, he challenged Juan Pablo Montoya for fourth.
“We’re very pleased about today’s result,” Sato said afterwards. “Considering where we were in practice, we had such a strong comeback to qualify eighth. With no cautions in the race, we had to save fuel from lap 2 which was a tough game. But we kept cool –there was no margin for error–and it was just a matter of who could do the best job. When I needed to, I pushed like hell. Passing Tony Kanaan and challenging Juan Pablo Montoya for fourth, that was a thrill. The team did a fantastic job in the pits and got me out so I could push so hard. There was a good strategy and the car worked really well. It was a great accomplishment for the team. We’re very pleased.”
Jack Hawksworth, who started 20th, was trying an alternate pit strategy—pitting early and hoping for a yellow that never came in the caution-free race. It may have been for naught anyway because they never did find the sweet spot on the No. 41 car and Hawksworth struggled throughout the race. He finished 21st.
“Obviously a really hard day,” said the dejected driver afterwards. “Nothing makes any sense because we rolled out very quick but, similar to St Pete, the car wasn’t drivable in the race. I think we may have a fundamental problem in the car somewhere so we need to investigate that and start again at Barber. We were fast there when we tested the other week so we know we have a good setup. It’s just a matter of getting the fundamentals right. Pretty heartbreaking day for us but glad that the 14 had a good run.”
Simon Pagenaud won the race while Scott Dixon finished second. Pole winner Helio Castroneves was third followed by Montoya. Sato was the first Honda-powered car. He is currently sixth in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.
The teams head to Barber Motorsports Park for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama which will be televised April 24th, Sunday afternoon on the NBC Sports Network.