Takuma Sato earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series pole start in qualifying for Saturday night's Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway. The KV Racing Technology driver became the first Japanese polesitter in the history of the series by posting a two-lap average speed of 180.375mph on the .875-mile banked oval.
“I want to say a big thank-you to the whole team, the fans, the sponsors and everyone who has supported me," said F1 veteran Sato, who is enjoying a turnaround season in IndyCars after a star-crossed rookie campaign with KV in 2010. Last week, he took an eighth-place finish in the Milwaukee 225 after starting fifth.
"It is a fantastic achievement," Sato added of his first pole. "I knew we were going to be competitive because of last year (started seventh), and this morning I was truly comfortable in the car.
"I could feel where we needed to be with the setup for qualifying. Working so closely today with the three KVRT-Lotus drivers, working so closely with my engineers, we had a great answer."
Danica Patrick, driving the No. 7 Team GoDaddy car for Andretti Autosport, averaged 180.210 and will start next to the KV Racing Technology-Lotus driver. She actually had the fastest lap overall at 180.582, but her two-lap average was 0.327mph slower than Sato's.
"It feels really good to have the GoDaddy car in position to be able to guard up front and have the opportunity for a solid race day," said Patrick, who led three Andretti Autosport cars in the top 10. "On short tracks like this, it's nice to start near the front because you can gain ground more quickly. If you start near the back of the field you could be a lap behind very quickly. I haven't started on the front row in a long time, so it's a good feeling."
Sato's teammate Tony Kanaan (179.833) and rookie JR Hildebrand (179.569) will share the second row ahead of joint championship leaders Will Power (179.474) and Dario Franchitti (179.474).
Newman/Haas rookie James Hinchcliffe impressed with seventh place, despite missing much of morning practice with mechanical problems. Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway took eighth and ninth, ahead of Ryan Briscoe in the next Penske entry. The team's third driver Helio Castroneves was back in 13th, while a very slow first lap – slower than his warm-up lap, in fact – left Ganassi's Scott Dixon way back in 23rd.
"The Target car was just really loose and it was a pretty bad attempt," said Dixon. "I almost spun on the out lap and the first timed lap. We are just way too loose and it was not what we're looking for."
Simona de Silvestro stood down from the Iowa weekend earlier in the day, when a medical examination revealed that the HVM driver was still suffering from the effects of concussion from her Milwaukee qualifying crash.
Pos Driver Team Speed (avg. mph)
1. Takuma Sato KV 180.375
2. Danica Patrick Andretti 180.210
3. Tony Kanaan KV 179.833
4. JR Hildebrand Panther 179.569
5. Will Power Penske 179.474
6. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 179.474
7. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 179.385
8. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 179.305
9. Mike Conway Andretti 179.185
10. Ryan Briscoe Penske 178.771
11. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 178.742
12. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 178.631
13. Helio Castroneves Penske 178.570
14. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher 178.510
15. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 178.426
16. Vitor Meira Foyt 178.365
17. Marco Andretti Andretti 178.165
18. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 177.821
19. EJ Viso KV 177.680
20. Graham Rahal Ganassi 177.509
21. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 177.280
22. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne 177.257
23. Scott Dixon Ganassi 175.784
24. James Jakes Dale Coyne 173.365
25. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest