Race Report: Honda Indy Toronto

TORONTO (July 17, 2016)—The joy and agony of racing was felt by the ABC Supply team today. For Takuma Sato and the No. 14 crew, there was pure elation as they turned their 20th place start into a top-five finish in the Honda Indy Toronto at Exhibition Place. Sato’s fifth place netted him the Hard Charger Award as the driver who improved his position the most in the 85-lap race around the 1.786-mile street circuit.

Jack Hawksworth, who fought hard for what would have been his first top-10 finish of the season, saw it evaporate with four laps to go when Simon Pagenaud punted the No. 41 car sending Hawksworth into the barrier. “Pagenaud just punted me!” Hawksworth called over the radio. Pagenaud, who escaped without a penalty because officials could not see video of his unsportsmanlike maneuver, went on to finish ninth. The luckless Hawksworth placed 21st.

Sato started the race on the outside of row 10 but he got a great start, avoided an accident that brought out a full course yellow, and was 17th at the end of lap 1.  Hawksworth had started 13th but by lap 10 he was 11th and in the top 10 by lap 16. As teams began to employ different fuel strategies, Hawksworth pitted on lap 20, changing from red tires to black tires, and Sato pitted on lap 22, changing from black tires to reds. Both drivers dropped in the running order.

Having worked their way up to 12th and 13th, the next round of pit stops proved critical. Sato’s crew gambled and pitted under caution on lap 47 which was before their fuel window; they knew they might have to stop for a splash of fuel if the race went green the rest of the way. Hawksworth was going to pit with the leaders as he was running ninth, but a problem with his fueling rig on the first stop prevented him from getting a full load. Fortunately the team caught it before he ran out, and they brought him in five laps later on lap 52. Unfortunately, the stop was under green, which proved costly as he dropped to 20th.

When the full course yellow came out on lap 58 for Josef Newgarden’s one car accident, the ABC cars advanced as the leaders made their final fuel stop on lap 60. When the race went green on lap 63, Sato was in fourth and Hawksworth was ninth--and he soon moved into eighth.

With 30 laps to go, Sato held off Helio Castroneves for 10 laps before dropping back to fifth which is where he finished, tying his career best finish at this track.

“A difficult weekend that ended up quite sweet for the No. 14 car with a fantastic result after having had a difficult qualifying,” Sato said afterwards. “Larry [Foyt] and the engineers made the right call for the strategy and the ABC Supply Honda worked really well and the pit stops were really fantastic. I was able to overtake a few cars on track. We were able to save fuel which was really tight but a couple yellows saved us. I’m proud of my guys, we achieved a really good result.”

Team president Larry Foyt said of the strategy call to pit, “We were in a tough position because you’re in the middle of the pack. You have to take a gamble to try to get a good finish because the guys behind us were all going to pit, so I just decided we needed to do it even though it was a longshot. For it to work, we needed a couple yellows, but they came so it paid off.”

Qualifying Report: Honda Indy Toronto

TORONTO July 16, 2016—“Really disappointing qualifying, a kick in the gut really,” Jack Hawksworth said after barely missing out on advancing to the next round by just six hundredths of a second around the 1.786-mile street circuit in Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Hawksworth posted a time of 1 minute, 0.6930 seconds (105.936mph); he will start 13th on the inside of row seven in the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda.

“We were fast this morning,” said Hawksworth, who was sixth in this morning’s practice, making his No. 41 car the fastest of the Honda-powered cars. “We were very quick on the blacks in qualifying but when we put the reds on, we picked up a bit too much understeer and missed out advancing by a fraction of a second. Disappointed, but the ABC Supply Honda was strong on the blacks and has been strong all weekend. We’re starting in the middle of the pack so hopefully we can have a solid race. We look forward to tomorrow because we have a fast car.”

Takuma Sato was also disappointed with his qualifying run in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda. His fastest timed lap of 1 minute, 1.4012 seconds (104.715mph) puts him 20th on the grid.

“It was a disappointing result having had a strong practice session in the ABC Supply Honda yesterday,” Sato said. “We seemed to struggle in practice this morning and now in qualifying. I don’t know why, we just couldn’t seem to get a good grip and good balance. We’re looking into the data now.”

Sato was pleased with his car yesterday even though he slipped from fourth in Practice 1 to 18th in Practice 2 because he was on the same set of tires for the entire afternoon session. Most of the cars used two sets in the afternoon, and they picked up speed with the second set of new tires. However, the changes the team explored to further improve the car in this morning’s practice yielded both positives and negatives as he finished 15th in that session. More changes before qualifying did not produce the expected results so the team will be poring over the data well into the evening to figure out their next moves before tomorrow morning’s final warmup session.

Scott Dixon won the Verizon P1 Award, snaring it from Helio Castroneves on the final lap of the Firestone Fast Six Round. Dixon’s time of 59.9073 seconds (107.326mph) edged out Castroneves’ time of 59.9425 seconds (107.263mph) by just 3.5 hundredths of a second. Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, Sebastien Bourdais and the popular Canadian James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top six.

The Honda Indy Toronto will be broadcast tomorrow afternoon starting at 2:30 p.m. ET on the CNBC network.

Practice Report: Honda Indy Toronto

TORONTO (July 15, 2016)--Jack Hawksworth and Takuma Sato took to the streets in Toronto’s Exhibition Place today with both drivers making it into the top 10—in different sessions.

Piloting the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda, Sato was fourth quickest in the opening session this morning with a time of 1 minute, 3.1925 seconds (101.746mph) while Hawksworth was 21st, his time was 1 minute, 4.2346 seconds (100.096mph). Sebastien Bourdais paced the field posting a time of 1 minute, 2.9290 seconds (102.172mph).

In the afternoon session, it was Hawksworth who improved significantly in his No. 41 ABC Supply Honda, moving into 10th with a time of 1 minute, 2.5737 seconds (102.752mph) while Sato was 14th with a time of 1 minute, 2.6863 seconds (102.657mph). Simon Pagenaud took the top spot posting a time of 1 minute, 1.7081 seconds (104.194mph).

Due to the ongoing construction of a new hotel inside the 1.786-mile circuit, the pit lane was shifted from the south side to the north side of the front straightaway. The change resulted in a portion of the old pit lane now becoming part of the race course and part of the old course becoming part of the new pit lane. The new layout proved challenging for drivers and engineers alike as it changed the configuration of several turns and the track surface is even bumpier than it had been in years past.

“Encouraging day,” Sato said afterwards. “It’s always great fun to come back to Toronto, one of the most challenging street courses in the series, so bumpy, so slippery and so unpredictable. It’s all about the challenge and particularly this year because they changed the track layout due to shifting the pit lane, so that made one of the fastest corners [Turn 11] in the street courses become very slow and very tricky as well because it’s off-camber and has concrete patches, etc.  The engineers and team worked really well; we brought the car with a new philosophy of the setup and we made very good progress, so we collected a lot of good data today. Hopefully we’ll be better tomorrow.”

“We struggled a bit this morning and the car wasn’t too great but we made some changes during the break and the car was a bit better this afternoon,” Hawksworth said. “It’s still lacking some grip, not doing what I want it to do, especially the rear. Hopefully we can find a little bit more bite and get ourselves in a better position for tomorrow.”

There is another 45 minute practice tomorrow morning for teams to do their final tune-ups before qualifying which will be broadcast live on the NBC Sports Network starting at 1:30 p.m. ET. The race will be broadcast live on the sister network CNBC Sunday afternoon starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Honda Indy Toronto

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda
Jack Hawksworth: No. 41 ABC Supply Honda

TAKUMA SATO On:

Toronto circuit: “Toronto is one of the most unique street courses and I enjoy the venue a lot. It has got a great atmosphere as fans are very enthusiastic and there is quite a large Japanese community there too. I also enjoy the great restaurants in downtown. But most importantly, I think we will be competitive so I look forward to it very much.”

Revised pit lane (how will it affect the race): “I haven’t seen it so I don’t know how it may affect the race, but I believe there will be no difference for the race. If anything it should be better for the team for working as there will be easier access from the paddock to pit-lane and possibly more space.”

The trickiest part of the Toronto circuit: “Most of Toronto’s corners are very tricky. There are several concrete patches at almost every corner which means the surface changes a lot during cornering. So the car is never settled because of the different levels of grip plus it is bumpy!”

The key to our success here this year: “Because of these very bumpy and tricky turns, making the car as consistent and stable as possible is a key. We have been generally strong in street courses and we are making good progress on the 2016 package, plus we had a good performance last year, so I think it will be good one for us.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH On:

Toronto: “Toronto is a fantastic place to race. It's extremely technical and there is a great atmosphere. The city embraces the race and the people of Toronto love their motorsport.”

Why it is his favorite circuit: “It's incredibly challenging and has an old school feel too it. The circuit has a wide selection of corners for a street circuit and it requires precision and commitment. It's a track that I always look forward to driving on.”

Revised pit lane (how will it affect the race): “I honestly have no idea. Perhaps it will make it a little more difficult to defend positions into Turn 1 after a pit stop due to the fact that we'll be exiting pit lane from the outside of Turn 1 rather than the inside as in years past. Other than that I imagine it will be pretty similar.”

Importance of the Track Walk: “Street circuits, due to their temporary nature, tend to change a little from year to year. This means the track walk at this kind of track is a little more important as it gives everybody a chance to see what changes have been made to the curbing, surface and temporary barriers.”

His favorite activity in Toronto: “Toronto is a great city and there is plenty to do but we are usually pretty flat out at the track and don't arrive back at the hotel until late. There are a few great Italian places I like to eat at in the evening!”

Past Performance at Toronto: Last year, Takuma Sato started eighth for a career best here and finished 10th. His career best finish is fifth (2014-Race 2). Jack Hawksworth posted his career best start of 14th last year, while his career best finish is sixth (2014 – Race 2). The ABC Supply team’s record shows better finishes than starts: 2009 Ryan Hunter-Reay started 12th, finished seventh; in 2010, Vitor Meira started 26th, finished 11th, in 2011, Meira started 14th and finished fifth and in 2012, Mike Conway started 11th and finished third.

The ABC Supply team will be busy this month and next: Following last weekend’s race in Iowa, the team pepped the cars in Iowa for the Honda Indy Toronto race this weekend. After the Toronto race, the crew will test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course July 21, return to Houston, then fly back to Mid-Ohio the next week for the Honda Indy 200 July 29-31. After which, they will prep the superspeedway cars for their test at Pocono Raceway on August 4. They will then return to their Indianapolis shop where they will prep the road course cars for a test August 11 at Watkins Glen International (the last time INDYCAR raced at WGI was in 2010). Following that test, the crew returns to Houston where the superspeedway cars will be prepped for the ABC Supply 500 in Mt. Pocono, Pa. Aug. 19-21 and the postponed race at Texas Motor Speedway, which takes place Saturday, Aug. 27.  Following the completion of the Firestone 600 at TMS, the team will do a final prep on the road course cars before heading to Watkins Glen, N.Y. for the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen on Labor Day weekend. By the time they return to Texas, they will have logged over 14,500 miles on the road…and over 12,000 Frequent Flier miles. Whew!

ABC Supply Co. enters its 12th season as marketing partner of AJ Foyt Racing: ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500, and is the second longest active team sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series. With this season, the company ties U.S. Tobacco’s Copenhagen brand in length of sponsorship of Foyt’s team.  ABC Supply has leveraged its involvement by sponsoring races at Milwaukee and now at Pocono with the ABC Supply 500, and by entertaining over 75,000 associates and customers during the past 11 racing seasons.