By: Allan Brewer, IndyCar Correspondent
- Sato earns his 1st series pole
- Patrick on front row in Iowa
- Kanaan adds to team celebration
Sato speeds at Iowa Speedway to snag his first IndyCar Series career pole
Takuma Sato barreled around Iowa Speedway's daredevil's delight 7/8 mile bullring at a blistering 180.375 mph two-lap average pace today to claim pole for Saturday night's Iowa Corn Indy 250 race in Newton, Iowa for the KV Racing Technology – Lotus team. Andretti Autosport's Danica Patrick earned the second spot on the grid on an average speed of 180.210 mph, and Sato teammate Tony Kanaan was third-quick with a qualifying mark of 179.833 mph.
I really enjoy it here at this track and I'm so excited, so happy.
The pole was the first of Sato's IndyCar career. Interestingly, after a long stint in glamorous Formula 1 surrounds, the Japanese driver has a soft spot in his heart for this tiny, lightning fast oval in America's heartland surrounded by cornfields and piglots. "The car felt good," said Sato. "It was very fast in qualifying trim. I really enjoy it here at this track and I'm so excited, so happy."
Joining a refrain offered by several drivers this weekend, Sato went on to cast some doubt on thoughts that he or his teammate Kanaan might win the race in a cakewalk. "Qualifying and racing are different things at this track. We will have a chance tomorrow but nothing is guaranteed."
Patrick appeared quietly confident after leading Andretti Autosports to the team's best position on the starting grid. She said afterwards, "It felt comfortable out there to me. The front row is really good. We made good changes in practice to make the car better and the progress showed when it counted."
Panther Racing's J R Hildebrand continued to look like a force to be reckoned with, this week taking the Dallara/Honda around at a qualifying speed of 179.569 mph for a spot on the outside of the second row adjacent Kanaan.
Series championship points co-leader Will Power (179.474 mph) of Team Penske nudged rival points co-leader Dario Franchitti of Ganassi Racing aside by the narrowest of margins, one ten-thousandth of a second, for the inside of the third row.
"I really struggled for grip," said Franchitti of his qualifying attempt. "It's a good thing Scott (Dixon) went first because he gave me a tip to take out some front wing. I suppose you can make up some ground in the race if the car is good."
Franchitti teammate Scott Dixon suffered his worst qualifying outing since 2005, posting a disappointing 175.784 mph that left him in the very last of 12 rows for the 8 PM EDT/7 PM CDT start.
Simona de Silvestro of HVM Racing did not participate in track activities on Friday. IndyCar medical authorities have not cleared her to drive for concerns she may still be suffering symptoms of a head injury incurred at last weekend's Milwaukee 300.
In first afternoon practice Franchitti was fastest on a best lap of 181.403 mph. He was followed by Sato and Dixon.