500-Winner Sato Earns Sunday’s Pole

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 4 2017

Takuma Sato won the pole for Sunday’s Race No. 2 in Detroit. (Photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

If it’s Sunday…better keep an eye on Takuma Sato in Motown.

Sato kept the momentum from his historic Indianapolis 500 victory going Sunday morning, winning the Verizon P1 Award and pole position in record fashion for this afternoon’s second race of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader.

The driver of the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Andretti Autosport Honda ran a sizzling lap of 1-minute, 13.6732-seconds/114.831 mph on the 2.35-mile/14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street course to secure P1 for the 70-lap race that airs at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Sato’s lap bested the track record set Saturday in qualifying for the first race by Graham Rahal at 1:13.9681-seconds/114.374 mph. Rahal, of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, went on to score his first victory of the season. Sato earned the sixth pole of his eight-year Verizon IndyCar Series career and first since he was fastest in qualifying for the second Belle Isle race three years ago.

“The (No.) 26 car was a rocket ship,” said Sato, a 40-year-old native of Japan. “Going through my (fast) lap, I mean, I gave 100 percent everything. There was nothing left on the inches. I was nearly hit the wall twice, but I was happy, I was confident. It’s absolutely team credit. To set the track record in this challenging track, it means a lot to me and I’m very, very happy.”

One week ago Sato won the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, becoming the first Japanese driver to prevail in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Sato scored his second career victory and first since winning on the Streets of Long Beach in 2013 while driving for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Sato finished eighth Saturday on Belle Isle after a whirlwind, week-long victory tour that included a visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to promote next Saturday night’s Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on Texas Motor Speedway’s repaved/re-profiled 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sato’s Andretti Autosport teammate, will start on the outside of Row 1 after setting the fastest lap in a disjointed first qualifying group. Hunter-Reay clocked a best lap of 1:15.2833-seconds/112.376 mph in the No. 28 DHL Honda during a session limited to a little more than five minutes of green-flag time due to Carlos Munoz’s crash in Turn 2.

“It was a case where Group 1 only had the opportunity to run one or two laps on a set of tires,” said Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series and 2014 Indy 500 champion. “Some guys didn’t even get to get a lap in after the green (following the Munoz incident). It’s nice to start up-front. We really didn’t have a shot at pole. We’ll take it and hopefully progress from there.”

Munoz was uninjured, but his No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing ABC Supply Chevrolet sustained significant right-side damage and shortened what had been scheduled as a 12-minute session. Munoz will start last in the 22-car field.

Rahal will start third in the No. 15 SoldierStrong/TurnsforTroops.com Honda. After winning Saturday’s race from pole, the son of 1986 Indy 500 champion Bobby Rahal looks to become the first driver to sweep the Belle Isle doubleheader since the format was adopted in 2013. Helio Castroneves, in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, will start beside Rahal in Row 2.

Point-leader Scott Dixon, runnerup to Rahal in Race 1 despite nursing a sore left ankle, will start from the outside of Row 4 in the No. 9 Camping World Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon leads Castroneves in the championship by two points heading into the race.  Dixon was injured in a spectacular crash during last week’s Indy 500.

Former Formula One regular Esteban Gutierrez, who started and finished 19th Saturday, qualified 19th for today’s race. Gutierrez is subbing in the No. 18 Honda fielded by Dale Coyne Racing for the injured Sebastien Bourdais. A four-time Champ Car champion, Bourdais is recuperating from injuries sustained while qualifying for the Indy 500 on May 20.

Gutierrez, a 25-year-old native of Mexico, spent the2016 FIA Formula One World Championship schedule driving for American-owned Haas F1 Team during its inaugural campaign.

Qualifying results Sunday for the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix Race 2 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.35-mile/14-turn Raceway at Belle Isle Park, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver, aero kit/engine, time and speed in parentheses:
1. (26) Takuma Sato, Honda, 01:13.6732 (114.831)
2. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 01:15.2833 (112.376)
3. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 01:13.8105 (114.618)
4. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 01:15.5279 (112.012) 
5. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 01:13.8264 (114.593)
6. (7) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 01:16.0371 (111.261)
7. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 01:13.9449 (114.410)
8. (9) Scott Dixon, Honda, 01:16.1727 (111.063)
9. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 01:14.0339 (114.272)
10. (4) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 01:16.1732 (111.063)
11. (1) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 01:14.0765 (114.206)
12. (83) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 01:16.1800 (111.053)
13. (2) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 01:14.1814 (114.045)
14. (98) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 01:16.2884 (110.895)
15. (10) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 01:14.3287 (113.819)
16. (8) Max Chilton, Honda, 01:16.5150 (110.567) 
17. (19) Ed Jones, Honda, 01:14.7786 (113.134)
18. (21) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 01:18.6272 (107.596)
19. (18) Esteban Gutierrez, Honda, 01:15.0055 (112.792)
20. (16) Oriol Servia, Honda, 01:21.4485 (103.869)
21. (20) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 01:15.8491 (111.537)
22. (14) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, No Time (No Speed)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, June 4 2017
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