Texas Motor Speedway
KV Racing Technology – Lotus Has Strongest Qualifying Performance Of Season
Team To Grid Two Cars In Top-Six For Tomorrow’S Firestone Twin 275s
Sato Qualifies Indycar Oval High Fourth, Kanaan To Start Season High Sixth
With temperatures hovering in the mid-nineties and track temperatures reaching 135 degrees, KV Racing Technology – Lotus had its strongest qualifying performance of the season and will start two cars in the top-six in tomorrow’s Firestone Twin 275s at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas.
Takuma Sato, #5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, qualified a IZOD IndyCar career oval high fourth with a two-lap average of 214.470 mph on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway tri-oval. Teammate Tony Kanaan, #82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus qualified a season high sixth with an average speed of 214.252 mph. E. J. Viso, the third of the KVRT – Lotus drivers, will start 19th after posting a speed of 212.494 mph.
The Firestone Twin 275s will feature two races on the same evening each scheduled for 114 laps. Today’s qualifying determined the grid for the first race which will be run at 7:45 p.m. CT tomorrow night. The grid for the second race will be determined by a draw at the end of the first race. The second race will start at approximately 9:45 p.m. CT. Half of the normal amount of championship points will be awarded in each race. This will be the first time the IZOD IndyCar Series has run two races on the same day however it will be the 18th time that IndyCar have utilized the format. The last time was during a CART sanctioned event at Atlanta in 1981. All three KVRT – Lotus drivers will be attempting to run two races at night for the first time in their careers.
Sato, contesting just his 23rd IndyCar event and 10th on an oval, is competing for just the second time at TMS. He was the last of the 30 cars (the second largest field of the season behind the Indy 500) to make a qualifying attempt and had his second consecutive outstanding oval qualifying effort (qualified a team-high 10th for the Indy 500). This is the third time in six races this season that Sato has qualified in the top-10 (also started 10th in Brazil). His previous best oval starting position was seventh last year at Iowa. Sato’s IndyCar career high qualifying position is third last season on the road course in Mid-Ohio. The 34-year-old from Japan, made his TMS debut in 2010, qualifying 11th, but a mechanical failure ended his race and he finished 25th.
Speaking about his qualifying effort Sato said, “It was fantastic, very exciting. The car was balanced and really felt good. After morning practice we were confident that we could have a good qualifying effort and after watching TK’s (Tony Kanaan’s) run I was even more confident. Now, we really need to concentrate on getting a good car for the race which is a very different car from qualifying.”
Sato has opened the 2011 season strong although his results do not reflect how consistently competitive he has been. Sato’s highlights this year include finishing an IndyCar career high fifth in the season opener at St. Petersburg and an eighth place performance at Brazil where he earned the Firestone Tire-ific Award for his pass of Will Power for the lead and then leading 23 laps (his first in an Indy car) before he was forced to pit for a splash of fuel. Sato is 14th in the championship standings with 94 points.
Kanaan will also start in the top-10 for the third time this season (eighth at St. Petersburg and 10th at Long Beach). The 36-year-old Brazilian is making his 11th appearance at TMS (IndyCar ran two races here in 2003 and 2004 one in June and one in October). Kanaan has now qualified in the top-10 seven times here at TMS, including three times in the top-five with a best starting spot of third in the June race of 2004. He has finished in the top-10 in all but one race with six top-five showings including five podiums with one win, also in June of 2004.
“Good qualifying run, I think that the GEICO-KVRT-Lotus guys did a great job,” Kanaan said. “I mean, qualifying doesn’t matter a lot here, but it’s definitely nice to be back at the front again. Now we’ve gotta work for the race. Race one is going to be very interesting and race two we really don’t know what to expect. Overall, two cars in the top six and I’m sitting a lot better than I have in the past…now we’ve got to move forward.”
Kanaan has had a very impressive start to the 2011 season. He has finished in the top-10 in four of the first five races with two top-five showings and a podium performance (third at St. Petersburg). He currently sits fourth in the championship standings with 135 points. Kanaan is in his 14th U. S. based open wheel season and 10th IndyCar season. Should he start both the Firestone Twin 275s he will tie the IZOD IndyCar Series record for most consecutive starts at 138 (tied with Scott Sharp. The all-time record is held by KVRT – Lotus co-owner Jimmy Vasser at 211).
Viso is making his fourth appearance in Texas. In three previous races he has a best starting position of 14th and a best finish of 11th, both last year.
“I am not happy with qualifying 19th, but to be honest this is one of the tracks where qualifying worries me the least,” Viso noted. “In the past, I have started at the back and made my way through the field and this is a pretty fun track to try and do that again. We will try and stay out of trouble during the race and hopefully we will have a good race tomorrow night.”
Viso, who has been plagued by bad luck this season, is hoping to turn things around tomorrow by having a strong oval race despite his qualifying position like he did so often last year. The 26-year-old Venezuelan started mid-field several times last season only to charge to the front early in the race. Viso, 20th in the standings with 65 points, cannot seem to catch a break this year. He had a tire punctured in St. Petersburg, was hit from behind at Barber and had contact while trying to make a pass at Long Beach. In Brazil, it looked like his luck was changing when he placed 13th in horrible weather conditions, but at Indy his misfortune resurfaced when he was again hit from behind on lap 27 and went into the wall.