Sato sets new track record, earns Verizon P1 Award for Belle Isle Race 2

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DETROIT – A week removed from his thrilling win at the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Takuma Sato found his way back to the top spot this morning, this time in Verizon P1 Award qualifying for Race 2 at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear later today.

With a new track record of 1 minute, 13.6732 seconds (114.831 mph), Sato (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda) scored his sixth career Indy car pole and first since Race 2 at Belle Isle in 2014. Sato scores a championship point for the accomplishment, keeping him third in the title chase, and now sits 16 points behind current championship leader Scott Dixon.

“It's a tremendous team effort,” said Sato, who scored Andretti Autosport’s 24th Indy car pole. “(The) No. 26 worked really well. I thank all the boys on 26, my engineer Garrett (Mothersead). We (were) almost arguing in last night, upset about the little things this morning. We figured it out together. I think it was an absolutely team effort.”

CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX: Race 2 qualifying results; Race 2 starting tire designation

Sato’s lap topped that of Graham Rahal’s record pole time from Saturday of 1:13.9681 on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn temporary street circuit that comprises the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.

“Going through my (fast) lap, I mean, I gave 100 percent everything,” Sato added. “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. This is the best moment of my life. In terms of qualifying, (to) set the track record in this challenging track, it means a lot to me and I'm very, very happy.”

Sato will be joined by teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) on the front row. Hunter-Reay led the first qualification group of the morning with a lap of 1:15.2833. As with Saturday’s qualifying procedure for Race 1, today featured two 12-minute qualifying sessions with half of the field in each.

The session with the fastest overall time would make up the odd-numbered starting positions based on qualifying times, which in today’s case was Group 2. For leading Group 1, Hunter-Reay also receives a championship point.

Four minutes into the Group 1 session, AJ Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz (No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet) lost control of his car at the exit of Turn 2 and made contact with the outside wall, damaging the right side of his Chevrolet. Munoz walked away from his car without assistance and will start 22nd.

The incident cost drivers in Group 1 valuable track time, limited them to only one hot lap when the track returned to green-flag conditions. It’s why the Group 1 times were considerably slower than Group 2.

“It's nice to start up front,” said Hunter-Reay, who notched his best Belle Isle start in 12 tries. “We really didn't have a shot at pole. We'll take it and hopefully progress from there.

“Congrats to Taku on the pole, (he) certainly put a couple great laps together there. He's had quite a week. He's definitely riding high right now. Hopefully we can get one better than him today.”

Saturday race winner Rahal (No. 15 SoldierStrong/TurnsForTroops.com Honda, 1:13.8105) was second quick in Group 2 and will start third, joined on Row 2 by Helio Castroneves (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 1:15.5279). Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Honda) and Mikhail Aleshin (No. 7 SMP Racing Honda) round out the top six on the starting grid for the 70-lap race, the eighth of 17 on this year’s schedule.

Live coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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