Sato Qualified 16th for the MAVTV 500 IndyCar Series Season Finale; Team Hopes for Strong Finish After Winning Previous 500-Miler Here

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
MAVTV 500 – Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, Calif.
IZOD IndyCar Series – Season Finale
QUALIFYING NOTES/QUOTES – Friday, September 14, 2012

POLE:   Marco Andretti  2-lap avg. speed of 216.069 mph           (L1: 217.934, L2: 214.235)
16th:     Takuma Sato     2-lap avg. speed of 213.222 mph           (L1: 213.433, L2: 213.010)  
TAKUMA SATO, No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone:  “The morning practice session was a little frustrating. We did very little running and we wanted to do a lot because we had many things we wanted to try that we carried over from the test in August but we just couldn’t do it. Still I think we got everything together for qualifying and we are satisfied with the speed that we achieved which was the best we did in all of the laps, including the practice sessions and the test before. The conditions were not easy; very high temperatures and a little less grip overall.  But I was reasonably happy with the balance so I could commit.  There is still a lot of work to do in the final practice tonight.”

  • FAST FACTS: Sato is among 11 drivers (to date) that will be assessed a 10-grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. IndyCar Series officials will release the starting grid after final practice tonight… Sato is one of 19 drivers who will compete in their first Indy car race at Auto Club Speedway… His best oval qualifying is pole at Iowa Speedway in 2011 and his best finish is fifth at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011… Sato led three street races this season (St. Pete, Long Beach & Baltimore) and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he nearly won with a last lap pass. Has led 70 laps to date in 2012… In 34 starts in 2010-2011, has 17 career top-10 starting spots including four top-five starts and two poles (Edmonton and Iowa 2011). He has earned eight top-10 finishes including three top-five spots (fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifth at Texas and St. Petersburg in 2011).  Led a total of 61 laps from 2010-11.

TOM ANDERSON, Managing Director Motorsports Operations: “We are starting in the back part of the grid tomorrow and I’m not disappointed at all given the fact that a lot of the teams tested here on Wednesday and we did our test here last month, we only had an hour practice session this morning and the fact that we really only got about 30 minutes of that due to track yellows and software upgrades to our engine. In actuality I am very pleased. We are moving forward from where we were, progress-wise, when we tested and we are really looking forward to tonight’s cooler practice which will be more relevant to race conditions tomorrow night.  Anybody, anywhere on this grid can win from any position so qualifying is basically irrelevant. The focus is more about the practice and how the car reacts over the course of long runs.”
1 WIN, 4 PODIUMS & 400 LAPS LED FOR RLL RACING AT AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY: The MAVTV 500 will mark the 11th IndyCar race for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) here.  The team was entered in seven CART/Champ Car races from 1997-2003 but the 2003 event was cancelled due to wildfires. In total, the team competed in six CART/Champ Car races (all scheduled as 500-mile races; five run as such) and four Indy Racing League events (2002-2005).  The team won ONE RACE (Jimmy Vasser 2002; the previous 500-mile race run here), made TWO front row starts (2nd: Max Papis 1999, Kenny Brack 2003), earned FOUR podiums (2nd– Papis 1999 & 2001; 3rd – Vitor Meira 2005), and led 400 laps (chart available).  The team entered cars for Bobby Rahal (1997-1998), Bryan Herta (1997-1999), Max Papis (1999-2001), Kenny Brack (2000-2001, 2003), Jimmy Vasser (2002 – both CCWS & IRL), Michel Jourdain (2002-2003), Buddy Rice (2004-2005), Vitor Meira (2004-2005), and Danica Patrick (2005).  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will be the 20th Indy car entry in this race.
NEXT UP: The 250-lap MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 15.  NBC Sports Network will pay their respects to COO Scott Roembke, who passed away September 9, on their pre-race show.