Honda: Sato shines mid-race at Milwaukee

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Just 12 laps later, a spin by Ana Beatriz brought out the fourth and final yellow flag of the day and resulted in Sato falling to seventh place.

Takuma Sato played a starring role Saturday at the Milwaukee IndyFest, leading a race-high total of 109 laps in search of his second IZOD IndyCar Series victory of 2013. But a yellow flag late in the race – just after his final pit stop of the day – dropped Sato to an unrepresentative seventh-place finish as Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to pit during the final caution and race on to his second consecutive victory at The Milwaukee Mile.

Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda
Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

Sato took the lead for the first time on Lap 75 of the 250-lap contest, and was in clear command of the field in the middle stages of the race, extending his lead to as much as five seconds when running in the clear. But struggles with lapped traffic late in his third run led Sato’s A.J. Foyt Racing team to call him in for his final pit stop early in his pit “window” on Lap 200.

Just 12 laps later, a spin by Ana Beatriz brought out the fourth and final yellow flag of the day and resulted in Sato falling to seventh place as other lead-lap cars were able to make their final stop during the caution and rejoin the field without losing track position.

Scott Dixon was one of those benefiting from pitting during the final yellow flag, and finished sixth for Honda and Target Chip Ganassi Racing. He briefly ran fourth following the last restart on Lap 220, but was forced out of the racing line and lost two positions as a result.

Teammate Dario Franchitti made gains in the race after a troubled qualifying to finish eighth; while Justin Wilson also made up ground in the final 50 laps to finish ninth for Dale Coyne Racing.

Takuma Sato (#14 ABC Building Supply A.J. Foyt Racing Honda Dallara - Started 15th, finished 7th, led a race-high 109 laps): "I think we need to investigate why we lost so much speed in our third stint. We lost a lot of stability in the car and that forced us into an early [final] pit stop.

Then the yellow came out – at the worst possible moment for us [as the other front-running cars could pit under caution] – and we immediately went from fighting for the lead to fighting for 10th place. That was just a shame, because the car was so very good earlier in the race.

During the middle stint, in particular, the car was so strong it seemed like I could run anywhere on the track and pass anyone. But after the third [pit] stop, the balance disappeared and I had several big ‘moments’. It’s racing, but it was a really hard day and I feel bad for the team, which did such a good job all day long.”

Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dallara - Started 11th, finished 6th): “I think we went down a [setup] road earlier this year that was in the wrong direction, and now we’re just trying to regroup and find our way. Maybe we’re lacking confidence in our changes with the car, but we’ll work hard and make it better.

The balance of the car was moving back-and-forth all day, we had understeer in the middle of the corner and the car ‘snapped’ coming off. Even with all that, we had a better car than we showed. I got run wide on the restart and I think it cost me at least a couple of positions. At the end of the day, it was an okay result, but it could have been more.”

Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: "During the middle stage of the race, Honda was looking pretty strong with Takuma Sato and the A.J. Foyt team. We thought they were in a good position to score their second victory of the season.

But unfortunately the team got caught out by the last yellow flag, right after their final pit stop. We had no engine reliability issues this weekend, which is good, but we have to be disappointed with the outcome. Now we go on to Iowa Speedway, another short oval, and do it all once again next week.”

Honda Performance Development

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Race report
Tags dixon, honda, indycar, milwaukee mile, sato