FORT WORTH, Texas (June 7, 2019) – Takuma Sato checked another box off his stellar open-wheel to-do list Friday when he qualified on-pole for the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Sato will start the first night race of the IndyCar Series season from P1 after lapping TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quad-oval in a two-lap average of 220.250 mph. “Taku” scored his ninth career pole and first in Cowtown at the wheel of the No. 30 ABeam Consulting Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“The team gave me a great opportunity, a great weekend,” said Sato, a 43-year-old native of Tokyo. “Here in Texas I’ve been dreaming about the pole because it’s such an iconic oval track. (Starting) front row here is safer but for the end result it will be a completely different scenario. At this track, anything is possible.
“The team gave me unbelievable speed … going that fast through the corners. Huge credit to my engineer, Eddie Jones.”
Sato will be joined in the two-car front row by Scott Dixon, the defending event winner, after his effort of 220.162 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon, a three-time winner here, will be looking to join Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves of Brazil as the only four-time winners of “America’s Original Nighttime INDYCAR Race.”
“It was close but congrats to Taku,” said Dixon, the five-time/reigning series champion from New Zealand. “I don’t feel like we did too much wrong in that run … got loose in Turn 2 and scrubbed some speed but it’s a great starting position for us. Interesting to see some of the big-hitters struggle, maybe trim too much and couldn’t go flat.
“Always nice to start on the front row … just wish you could do a little bit better on-pole.”
Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais will start third after lapping at 219.746 mph in the No. 18 SealMaster Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing. Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport will start fourth after his run at 219.537 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud leads the Chevrolet contingent in fifth after his run of 219.355 mph in the No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske entry. The Frenchman finished second to Dixon, who led the race’s final 119 laps, last June.
Series point-leader Josef Newgarden, Pagenaud’s teammate, will start seventh after lapping at 218.666 mph in the No. 2 Fitzgerald USA Chevrolet. Newgarden has a 15-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Andretti Autosport. Rossi will start 11th after lapping at 218.295 mph in the No. 27 GESS/Capstone Honda.
The top qualifying rookie was Colton Herta, driver of the No. 88 GESS/Capstone Honda fielded by Harding Steinbrenner Racing. Herta averaged 218.406 mph during his two-lap run to qualify 10th.
Tire degradation continues as a key issue heading into Saturday night’s 248-lapper. Firestone Racing has supplied nearly 1,300 tires for on-track activities here including practice, qualifying and the race. Each entry has received 14 sets of Firestone Firehawk race tires.
Thursday’s rained-out night session was scheduled to allow teams to practice in conditions similar to what they likely will experience Saturday night. As a result, sanctioning body INDYCAR ordered all teams to scrub-in four sets of tires during an extra 30-minute session that preceded Friday’s one-hour practice.
After tire-testing here in October 2018 and this past March, the Firestone Race Tire Engineering team has brought a faster-wearing right side compound that is more heat-resistant on the 1.5-mile layout. The right-side construction and the left side tires are the same as last year, according to Cara Adams, chief engineer, Bridgestone Americas Motorsports.
Live television coverage of the DXC Technology 600 will be carried on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7 p.m. (CDT).
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