Series Road America Qualifying Report

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Sato Earns First Indy Car Pole, Wins Peak Performance Pole Award At Iowa

Takuma Sato earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series pole start, becoming the first Japanese pole sitter in the IZOD IndyCar Series, posting a two-lap average speed of 180.375 mph on the .875-mile Iowa Speedway oval.

Danica Patrick, driving the No. 7 Team GoDaddy car for Andretti Autosport, averaged 180.210 and will start next to the KV Racing Technology-Lotus driver.

Takuma Sato, KV Racing Technology-Lotus
Takuma Sato, KV Racing Technology-Lotus

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Tony Kanaan (179.833) and rookie JR Hildebrand (179.569) -- a season-high starting spot -- will share Row 2. Will Power (179.474) and Dario Franchitti (179.474) -- tied for the series championship points lead heading into the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer -- will be on Row 3. The were separated by 0.0001 in cumulative time.

Six different teams are represented in the top 10; 23 of the 24 cars to make a qualifying attempt were separated by less than a second.

Sato's team will have some extra work to do before it can take the front row spot on Saturday night. The pole-winning car was involved in a two-car accident late in the final practice session with the car of Alex Tagliani.

Also on June 24, Esteban Guerrieri topped provisional pole sitter Gustavo Yacaman with a two-lap average speed of 160.787 mph in the No. 7Lucas Oil Sam Schmidt Motorsports car to earn his fourth Sunoco Pole Award of the season.

A Sam Schmidt Motorsports car will be making its fourth consecutive start from the pole.

Yacaman (159.520), driving the No. 2 TMR-Tuvacol-Xtreme Coil Drilling car, will be making his first front-row start.

Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammates Bryan Clauson (159.434) in the No. 77 Mazda Road to Indy/Curb Records/SSM car and Josef Newgarden (159.408), driving the No. 11 Copart/Score Big/Robo-Pong/SSM car, will share Row 2.

Duarte Ferreira (career best) and Victor Carbone will be on the third row, and Stefan Wilson and Brandon Wagner will be on Row 3 for the Sukup 100.

The IZOD IndyCar Series will compete in the Iowa Corn Indy 250, a 250-lap race at 9 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. Firestone Indy Lights will compete in the Sukup 100, a 115-lap race at 6:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday. The Star Mazda Championship, a part of the Mazda Road to Indy is also racing here this weekend.

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This is the fifth IZOD IndyCar Series event at Iowa Speedway. Tony Kanaan won the race last year. Scott Dixon holds the single-lap qualifying record with a lap of 17.6486 seconds, 182.360 mph set in June 2007. Past winners Kanaan (2010) and Dario Franchitti (2007 and 2009) are entered in the event.

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Live timing and scoring reports from the Iowa Corn Indy 250 are available on the Internet at www.indycar.com. The live timing and scoring module provides statistical information, including track segment speeds, lap information and much more.

Feature stories, reports, driver quotes and notes, and photos will be posted on the site each day. More detailed information, including media advisories and VNF coordinates, is available at media.indycar.com.

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Drivers will have 24 total pushes of the Honda overtake assist - an ECU software alteration employed by Honda Performance Development - each lasting 10 seconds during the Iowa Corn Indy 250. It is activated by the driver via a button on the steering wheel and provides an extra 200 RPM (about 10 horsepower) to the Honda Indy V-8 engine. Parameters are updated before each race weekend to meet the circuit layout.

There is an 8-second recovery period between pushes. One overtake assist push is available for the final practice session.

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Each entry for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 receives eight sets (32 total) of Firestone Firehawks for the race weekend. Firestone has developed a new tire combination for Iowa Speedway. It consists of the same right-side tire specifications used three weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway along with new left-side tire specifications that possess a more durable compound than the 2010 Iowa left-side tires to improve wear.

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Medical update from Dr. Michael Olinger, INDYCAR Medical Director: Simona De Silvestro has not been medically cleared to drive this weekend.

Upon evaluation Sunday morning at Milwaukee, Simona De Silvestro had no physical signs of a concussion after the neurological exam and didn't report any post-concussion symptoms to the INDYCAR medical team so she was cleared to drive. After taking 11 laps in the car, Simona returned to the care center reporting post-concussion symptoms. Physical and emotional stress can bring out post-concussion symptoms.

To be cleared to drive after a concussion, a driver must pass the IMPACT Test and INDYCAR Medical evaluation. Simona passed the IMPACT Test on Wednesday but was still exhibiting post-concussion symptoms when evaluated by INDYCAR Medical on Friday at Iowa so she has not been cleared to drive. She will be re-evaluated at Toronto.

Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is a nominee for the "Best Driver" in the 19th ESPY Awards.

Stick car driver Jimmie Johnson and drag racers John Force and Gary Anderson are other nominees in the category. Franchitti, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car, is tied with Team Penske's Will Power for the championship points lead heading into the June 25 Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer at Iowa Speedway.

The ESPY Awards ceremony will air ESPN live from Los Angeles on July 13 (9 p.m. ET). "Saturday Night Live" cast member Seth Meyers will be the host. Vote for Franchitti HERE.

Andretti Autosport driver Danica Patrick will be an award presenter.

Unlike most awards shows, the ESPYs are probably more noted for its contribution to charity, as a portion of the proceeds is donated to The V Foundation, named for its founder, Jim Valvano. The Arthur Ashe Courage Award is another ESPY highlight, honoring an individual for their personal courage or charitable works outside the sports arena.

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Scott Dixon qualified 23rd for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer at Iowa Speedway (tying his Indy car career low) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. The only other time he's qualified 23rd was in 2001 at Nazareth Speedway for Bruce McCaw in a Reynard/Toyota in Champ Car.

He went on to lead 36 laps and won the race - the first of his career.

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Takuma Sato earning the PEAK Performance Pole Award is the third for the Jimmy Vasser/Kevin Kalkhoven team.

Vasser won the pole at Milwaukee in 2005 and Tristan Gommendy won the pole in 2007 at Mont Tremblant in Champ Car.

Sato's teammate, Tony Kanaan, qualified third, his best qualifying effort of 2011. He started fourth at Miwaukee after he drew the pole for Texas2

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FINAL PRACTICE QUOTES:

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I'm very disappointed. I'm upset for the boys because it's going to be a lot of work. We had a very racey car in this session. We were making good improvements and running side-by-side early on so I felt comfortable racing with (Sato). I was on the outside for a couple of laps early on and then we did some pit stops. Then I was on the bottom. I felt like (he) crossed down into the bottom lane and my right front touched his left rear. And that's a situation where the two cars are not clear. You really have to give room when you are out there."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "I was approaching on the outside at a much greater closing speed because I think (Tagliani) was just coming out of the pits. I was running in the second lane and gave space, but unfortunately we were very close together and we touched. I didn't it want it this way during practice. Hopefully Alex's car is OK, and mine is OK is too.

PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE QUALIFYING QUOTES:

TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus, PEAK Performance Pole Award Winner): "I want to say a big thank you to the whole team, the fans, the sponsors and everyone who has supported me. It is a fantastic achievement. I knew we were going to be competitive because of last year and this morning I was truly comfortable in the car. I could feel where we needed to be with the setup for qualifying. Working so closely today with the three KVRT - Lotus drivers, working so closely with my engineers, we had a great answer. The mechanics also did a great job preparing the car. I am very pleased with today's result."

DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy, qualified second): "It feels really good to have the GoDaddy car in position to be able to guard up front and have the opportunity for a solid race day. On short tracks like this it's nice to start near the front because you can gain ground more quickly. If you start near the back of the field you could be a lap behind very quickly. I haven't started on the front row in a long time so it's a good feeling."

TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, qualified third): "Not a bad run for the GEICO - KV Racing Technology - Lotus guys. This track is always a challenge and to qualify near the front is a big advantage. You know, you always hate to see your number fall from the pole position during qualifications, but if it has to happen the only way it is acceptable is for a teammate's number to be sitting on top of yours. I am proud for Takuma and for the KVRT - Lotus organization as a whole."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, qualified fourth): "We got the ole girl a little loose there in practice, so we made a bunch of changes during the break and obviously rolled out there in qualifying and felt pretty good. We're excited about what we had in qualifying there and even more excited about what we can have in the race. When we rolled out in practice we were really good and then we lost it a little bit. We started to have some issues at the end of that practice, but we locked ourselves into the transporter until qualifying and we definitely got it right. We're excited that we had a good run there in qualifying and we've got another practice session tonight to work on the racecar."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, qualified fifth):"After the struggles we had last week in qualifying, we're just feeling good to be starting somewhere close to the front. The Verizon car was OK today in qualifying but what's important here is to be good for the race. We need to go back and talk to the engineers and probably make a few adjustments tonight before the race tomorrow. We finished top-five here last here and we need to make sure we have another strong result tomorrow."

DARIO FRANCHITTI: (No. 10 Suave, qualified sixth): "I wasn't happy with the run. The balance wasn't good and we struggled with both ends of the Suave car. I don't think it was as bad as Scott's but I think both our cars just missed it today in qualifying. We'll be better."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing): "We had some problems in practice with an oil line going bad and we only got about 20 laps in during practice so it was sort of an exercise in faith to go out there and keep the Sprott car flat. It was good. Oriol helped us out again because we relied on his data for qualifying like in Milwaukee. To go straight into qualifying without having done a flat out lap yet in practice was a little challenging but Newman/Haas gave me a great car. I was surprised by our performance to be honest; it was pretty much on edge but we put up a decent time. The team hasn't had a lot of success at this track so we weren't sure what to expect but after that, hopefully we're a little better than we thought. This is a short track that races like a super speedway. The variable banking really helps us put on good races, you can run different lines here. It's going to be a long, quick, busy Saturday night. I'm looking forward to it; its going to be fun."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda, qualified eighth): "I think that was a good first run for the car with Circle K on it, along with DHL and Sun Drop. It's great to have all their support. But, we can work from there. Last year, we qualified 12th and we were up to the top five within the first 10 or 15 laps, so hopefully we're headed in that direction again. The guys did a great job preparing the car and we're looking forward to getting things going tomorrow night."

MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 Andretti Autosport, qualified ninth): "The car felt OK. It felt pretty 'stuck.' It felt similar to this morning. I thought there would be a little more speed there, but it was OK. Hopefully, we'll be able to race well from there tomorrow night."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "After running well with the Venom car in the morning warm-up, I was a bit disappointed with the qualifying results. I think there's a bit less grip on the track than last year and some of that could be in the tires. We're sliding more this year for sure and just weren't able to get the speed we needed in qualifying."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Levemir and Novolog FlexPen): "I'm pretty happy with that run. I was flat all the way around, we just missed the setup a little bit; missed the car balance. I'm a little disappointed personally but that's part of being rookie, it doesn't help anyone to go out and sack it in qualifying. My three teammates and are all fighting a really loose race car, so we went aggressively the other way to keep the No. 83 Levemir and NovoLog FlexPen car good for me. The Novo Nordisk team will go back to work and we'll be ready to race tomorrow night."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central): "The No. 38 Service Central car has been really good in race trim and I still feel very confident in our car. We'll be just fine when it comes to racing tomorrow night. Obviously, we tried something for qualifying and it just didn't work. We'll get on the right track and try to qualify better but it looks like we're going to start 20th here at Iowa. The Service Central team has some work ahead of us tomorrow, but we've been there and done this before. "

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Guidepoint Systems Team Penske): "It was a little bit tough out there today in the Guidepoint Systems car. We were a little bit neutral, but we managed to complete the run. Now we just look forward to the race tomorrow and do our best to execute our strategy and work our way to the front."

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske): "Our qualifying run in the PPG Automotive Refinish car was just OK. The car was sliding around a bit and we were fighting some understeer. We just couldn't hold the bottom line and that's probably the difference between being on pole and not. We just needed to have better balance all the way around to keep it on the bottom of the track. We'll keep working on it and make sure we've got what we need for the race tomorrow."

JUSTIN WILSON ( No. 22 Dad's Root Beer/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "The Dad's Root Beer car was pretty good for qualifying. We had a little push in the middle and we were also going loose. I definitely had to work on it out there. I think that the key is working on a good racecar for tomorrow so that we can be consistent throughout the race. If we can do that, we will have a good day and hopefully bring the Dad's Root Beer car hope with a strong result."

ANA BEATRIZ (No. 24 Team Ipiranga/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing): "It was a hard run. I think that we improved the Ipiranga car, but it wasn't as fast as it was this morning, which was a little bit disappointing. The most important thing to do right now is to focus on the race and have a fast car that is fast in traffic so that we can move up positions."

VITOR MEIRA (No 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing): "The run itself felt okay. I think we achieved what we wanted to achieve which was to improve from practice to qualifying. I don't know how it will stack up, we shall see. At this point, the race car is good and that is what matters here. (Racing at night?) I think running at night will change things a little bit because here normally, the longer runs are the ones that hurt the car the most as far as losing grip so as the run progresses during the night it will get cooler so it might not be as big of a factor as it is during the day but it will still be a factor. (Is that because the banking puts more stress on the tires?) I think it's a combination of a number of things, the track is faster, it has a lot of banking so it loads the car quite a lot. We do have a lot of steering input because the turns are pretty tight so it's all of these things together which puts a lot of stress on the tires."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "The Target car was just really loose and it was a pretty bad attempt. I almost spun on the out lap and the first timed lap. We are just way too loose and it was not what we're looking for."

ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "We are a lot slower than last year. I don't think that the set-up of the car is all that good. We're struggling the grip level. We have both understeer and oversteer at the same time. It's not where we want to be for sure. I was expecting the car to be a lot quicker than it is right now."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "I'm a little disappointed in the run. We were flat (on the pedal), easy flat actually so we expected to be a little faster. The Telemundo car honestly felt great in traffic in practice today and that's what matters here. We just wanted a little more speed but will have to wait until tomorrow."

E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, qualified 19th): "Since the first practice here in Iowa it has been difficult for the PDVSA - KVRT - Lotus crew. We just came from a race in Milwaukee where I was running good but we damaged the primary car, so we had to go to the back-up car. I am not saying that is the reason we are slow, but it does raise some doubts. Anyway there is nothing we can do but stay strong and work hard. The one thing we know is that our best results this year have come when we started from the back. Also, last year I started 19th here, the same as this year, and finished third, so I am excited and confident we can have a very good race tomorrow."

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The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season continues with the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 25 at Iowa Speedway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM channel 94 and www.indycar.com. The 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Sukup 100 at Iowa Speedway on June 25. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 6:30 p.m. (ET) by VERSUS.

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