Sato Returns to the Site of His First IndyCar Series Pole for the Iowa Corn Indy 250

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – 21st Season
Pre-Race Notes
Iowa Corn Indy 250 – IowaSpeedway
Round 9 of 16 in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series


DATE:                                        June 22-23, 2012

QUALIFYING BROADCAST:     8 p.m. ET Saturday, June 23 on NBC Sports Network (tape delayed); LIVE on (timing & scoring with audio commentary)

RACE BROADCAST:                 Live on Saturday, June 23 at 9 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network

RADIO BROADCAST:               The race will air on IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM (XM 94 & Sirius 212)

TRACK LAYOUT:                       0.875-mile oval

RACE LENGTH:                         250 laps / 218.75 miles

2011 WINNER:                           Marco Andretti

2011 POLESITTER:                  Takuma Sato (180.375 mph avg.)

OVAL START:                           Pole at IowaSpeedway in 2011

OVAL FINISH:                           Fifth at Texas Motor Speedway 2011 (Race 1)

SATO AT IOWA:                       In two events here, Sato’s best start is pole 2011; retired 19th in 2010 & 2011

FINISH AT IOWA:                     Highest start of 4th and finish of 3rd came in 2007 by Scott Sharp



The Iowa Corn Indy 250 will mark the third event for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) at Iowa Speedway.  The best finish for the team is third in 2007 by Scott Sharp who also earned the top start for the team of fourth the same year.  Prior to the 2012 event, the team prepared a total of three entries for drivers Scott Sharp (2007), Jeff Simmons (2007) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (2008). The team has earned ONE podium (3rd, Sharp 2007) and two, top-10 finishes at the track.  The No. 15 entry for Takuma Sato will bring that total to four entries in 2012.

SATO ON WINNING IOWA POLE AFTER HIS LOSING HIS FATHERTakuma Sato competed at Iowa Speedway in 2010 and 2011 and won his first IndyCar Series pole there last year with a 2-lap average speed of 180.375.  “It was a special moment,’ recalled Sato. “Not only because it was my very first pole in IndyCar but also because it was right after my father passed away. I wished I could have achieved it before but nevertheless, I would like to think he was still seeing it somewhere and I was very proud and most grateful to my father for his support to make it happen and to be standing where I was that day.”

“It started from practice that I felt I had a good car so we worked on all of the details to go faster and it was very exciting. In qualifying we just needed make sure the car was not going to be tipped over (on handling). Iowa is a very short track so there is very little time to get up to speed before the green flag so I remember I was very focused right away to launch the car to get the throttle wide open as early as possible with cold, new tires. The two laps had gone very quickly but I used the tools (inside the cockpit) to maximize the speed and I really enjoyed the laps. I love the sensation of the speed and the strong vertical G (force) load that comes from the steep banking. After winning pole, I liked everyone’s big smile and the excitement from the team, fans and Japanese media! The story crossed to Japan quickly so there were nonstop messages of congratulations.”

Two IZOD IndyCar Series practice sessions June 22 totaling 90 minutes will play integral roles in setting the starting grid for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. As announced by INDYCAR in mid-February, three heat races of 30 laps each will replace single-car qualifications for the June 23 race under the lights on the .875-mile Iowa Speedway oval. According to Rule 8.5 of the IZOD IndyCar Series rulebook, groups for the 6:15 p.m. (local) qualifications will be determined by combined practice session times.

Race 1 will consist of the even-numbered positions, starting with the 10th-quickest practice time overall, and determine the even-numbered positions in the starting field from 10th down. Race 2 will consist of the odd-numbered positions, starting with the ninth-quickest practice time overall, and determine the odd-numbered positions in the starting field from 9th down. Race 3 will consist of drivers ranked one through eight by combined practice times. Results of Race 3 will determine the top-eight starting positions with the winner taking the pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 250. Double-file restarts also will be utilized at Iowa Speedway, which has played host to the IZOD IndyCar Series since its opening in 2007.

“Since we didn't have a test at Iowa, for us it's going to be challenging to set up the car in only one practice session but having a heat race gives us an opportunity to see how the car performs in race conditions before the final race so I think it will work in our favor and it will be interesting.”

“The big thing that the engineers and drivers are going to be looking at, much differently than the race, is the fact that with the qualifying race only going 30 laps, that is about 1/3rd of a fuel load so you are going to have a much better tire life within that range,” said Tom Anderson, managing director of motorsports operations. “The car should be much more consistent throughout that 30 lap period than it would be in 30 laps of the race because it will have quite a lighter fuel load. It is going to be challenging because the drivers will all nod and say ‘Yes this is just a qualifying race and it’s only to determine a specific position to start and, really, the big show is Saturday night.’  That somehow seems to change when they put their helmets on so it will be quite interesting to see and I’m sure it will be worth the ticket price for those that show up on Friday night. 

            (On changes to the car between the heat race and race:) “You can basically make any changes you want within the rules.  There is a maximum wing angle that is allowed and this will be the same for the qualifying races as it will be for the race. And you will be changing the setup because obviously now you have to be more concerned about your tire wear and the heavier fuel load, which plays a dramatic part of the setup because the Indy cars definitely feel that bump coming over the tunnel which is quite severe for these cars and several have been caught out the last few years. It’s something we have to be very aware of.  The fact that we are going to be racing later on Saturday night and it will be cooler is also a factor to consider.  I would say there will be a significant setup change between the qualifying races on Friday and the race on Saturday night.”

Pursuant to input from IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and team engineers, INDYCAR has directed a maximum rear flap angle of 37 degrees with no wicker allowed for the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 23 at Iowa Speedway. The technical bulletin sent to teams June 18 follows two days of testing by 21 cars total at the .875-mile oval last week. The rule will reduce downforce available by about 8-9 percent.  Aside from this alteration, the short oval aerodynamic package utilized at the Milwaukee Mile this past weekend will be employed – mandatory speedway front brake backing plates, prohibit rear wheel infils and sidepod top deck, optional two-thirds radiator inlet shutters. Team Technical Director Jay O’Connell believes this will add an additional challenge to the race this weekend.

“I think the recent changes made to the Iowa aero package will make the cars more difficult to drive, especially on used tires near the end of each stint,” said O’Connell. “The drivers that tested at Iowa (right after Texas) reported that the cars were too easy to drive with the maximum downforce configuration and requested the reduction. Most importantly the rules are the same for everyone so all the teams need to develop a setup that is conservative enough to retain plenty of stability when the tires degrade. The rules changes will make Iowa more challenging for the driver and for the engineers setting up the car.”

Sato has run competitively in all races to date this season although his 17th place rank in series standings with a total of 136 points does not reflect that performance.  He is only 37 points from a top-10 rank (10th: Servia, 173 pts) and 95 out of the top five (5th: Castroneves, 231 pts.).  He led three races to date and ran as high as second and sixth in three others but has only seen the checkered flag in Brazil where he finished third. Of the seven races he failed to finish, two were mechanical failures, one was the result of “avoidable contact” by Hunter-Reay (Long Beach while third), and he retired due to contact in another four (Indy while attempting to win from second place on the final lap; launched into wall after hitting the curb in Detroit while sixth; was sixth in Texas when he hit the wall; ran as high as 10th before contact in Milwaukee).

“I always believe in the motto ‘No Attack, No Chance.’ You could say for most of the things in my life, it has been that way too.  Of course it doesn't have to be always attacking, sometimes it needs to be a different angle for the appropriate approach.  However, racing is an aggressive sport and attacking is the way to grab the chance and ultimately win. I am not saying to attack without thinking or planning, that is not what I mean by attack at all. Unfortunately the last few races were tough situations as they ended with ‘DNF’s’ and I feel bad for the team.  The boys have done a lot of hard work so I hope we have a good race in the next one. I am really looking forward to going to Iowa; I just need to be smart about attacking.”


– RLL –