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Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

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400 miles. 2 Chase Grid spots. And one, 3/4-mile track with a penchant for having great racing and triggering short tempers.

Put it all together, and a wild Saturday night should be in store at Richmond International Raceway for the grand finale of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season.

For those already in the post-season, it’s their last chance to earn three more bonus points for the Chase reset with a win.

But for Ryan Newman, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and a host of others, it’s their last chance to enter the hunt for a championship (CLICK HERE to see the clinch scenarios for that bunch).

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for the Federated Auto Parts 400…

RICHMOND-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 DEWALT Ford)
· One top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 19.5
· Average Running Position of 21.8, 24th-best
· Driver Rating of 70.1, 23rd-best
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, 32nd-most
· 608 Green Flag Passes, 29th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.710 mph, 25th-fastest
· 1,197 Laps in the Top 15 (27.2%), 25th-most
· 174 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 26th-most

Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Call Before You Dig Ford)
· Two top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.9
· Average Running Position of 17.1, 18th-best
· Driver Rating of 81.5, 17th-best
· 176 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most
· 893 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.067 mph, 14th-fastest
· 3,871 Laps in the Top 15 (50.8%), 15th-most
· 355 Quality Passes, 17th-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota)
· Two wins, three top fives, nine top 10s
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 10.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 98.7, fourth-best
· 185 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· 857 Green Flag Passes, 15th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.279 mph, seventh-fastest
· 5,232 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8%), fifth-most
· 485 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Austin Dillon (No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 27.0
· Average Running Position of 25.8, 36th-best
· Driver Rating of 54.9, 39th-best
· 2 Fastest Laps Run, 47th-most
· 33 Green Flag Passes, 51st-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.322 mph, 38th-fastest
· 1 Laps in the Top 15 (.3%), 49th-most
· 0 Quality Passes, 50th-most

Kyle Larson (No. 42 Target Chevrolet)
· Average finish of 16.0
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 26th-best
· Driver Rating of 66.1, 25th-best
· 0 Fastest Laps Run, 51st-most
· 53 Green Flag Passes, 49th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.569 mph, 29th-fastest
· 47 Laps in the Top 15 (11.8%), 45th-most
· 7 Quality Passes, 44th-most

Jamie McMurray (No. 1 Cessna Chevrolet)
· One top five, four top 10s
· Average finish of 22.0
· Average Running Position of 18.5, 20th-best
· Driver Rating of 74.8, 20th-best
· 72 Fastest Laps Run, 19th-most
· 1,017 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.936 mph, 20th-fastest
· 3,042 Laps in the Top 15 (39.9%), 18th-most
· 305 Quality Passes, 18th-most

Paul Menard (No. 27 Sylvania/Menards Chevrolet)
· One top five, one top 10
· Average finish of 24.5
· Average Running Position of 25.1, 35th-best
· Driver Rating of 58.8, 36th-best
· 17 Fastest Laps Run, 38th-most
· 727 Green Flag Passes, 25th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.486 mph, 33rd-fastest
· 685 Laps in the Top 15 (11.4%), 30th-most
· 68 Quality Passes, 32nd-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.3
· Average Running Position of 11.6, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 92.0, seventh-best
· 122 Fastest Laps Run, 16th-most
· 977 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.241 mph, eighth-fastest
· 5,747 Laps in the Top 15 (75.5%), third-most
· 591 Quality Passes, second-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pros Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet)
· Three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s
· Average finish of 11.1
· Average Running Position of 12.7, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.5, sixth-best
· 276 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· 903 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 116.374 mph, fourth-fastest
· 4,756 Laps in the Top 15 (65.9%), seventh-most
· 462 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Brian Vickers (No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota)
· Three top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 24.6
· Average Running Position of 22.1, 25th-best
· Driver Rating of 65.9, 26th-best
· 68 Fastest Laps Run, 20th-most
· 733 Green Flag Passes, 24th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 115.699 mph, 26th-fastest
· 1,609 Laps in the Top 15 (26.7%), 22nd-most
· 178 Quality Passes, 25th-most

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Richmond International Raceway History
· Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 19, 1953 won by Lee Petty.
· The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
· The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
· The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
· The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
· The track was re-measured to .542-mile for 1970.
· The track was rebuilt as a three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval following the Feb. 21, 1988 race.
· The first race under permanent lights was Sept. 7, 1991.
· The first season with both races as night races was 1999.

Richmond International Raceway Notebook
· There have been 116 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway, one NSCS event from 1953 – 1958 and two races per year since 1959.
· 477 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond; 308 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Richmond with 63. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts.
· Buck Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Richmond in 1953 with a speed of 48.465 mph.
· 52 drivers have Coors Light poles at Richmond, led by Richard Petty and Bobby Allison with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six.
· Seven drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Richmond. Bobby Allison holds the record for most consecutive poles at Richmond with five (1972 – 1974).
· Youngest Richmond pole winner: Brian Vickers (05/15/2004 – 20 years, 6 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond pole winner: Mark Martin (04/28/2012 – 53 years, 3 months, 19 days).
· 49 different drivers have won at Richmond International Raceway, led by Richard Petty with 13. Kyle Busch leads all active drivers with four.
· Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 10, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing with nine each.
· Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Richmond with 36 victories; followed by Ford with 30 wins and Toyota with seven.
· 22 of the 116 (18.9%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from the Coors Light pole. Only three active drivers have been able to accomplish the feat: Kasey Kahne (2005), Jimmie Johnson (2007) and Kyle Busch (2010).
· The pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing the more winners than any other starting position at Richmond (22).
· 35 of the 116 (30.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond have been won from the front row: 22 from the pole and 13 from second-place.
· 90 of the 116 (77.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· 13 of the 116 (11.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Richmond International Raceway was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in the spring of 2008.
· Youngest Richmond winner: Richard Petty (04/23/1961 – 23 years, 9 months, 21 days).
· Oldest Richmond winner: Harry Gant (09/07/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 28 days).
· Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are tied for thelead in runner-up finishes at Richmond with nine each. Jeff Gordon, tied with Dale Earnhardt, leads all active drivers with seven.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Richmond with 34.
Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 17; followed by Kyle Busch with 13.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Richmond with 41. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 27; followed by Tony Stewart with 19.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Richmond International Raceway with an 8.047.
· Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Richmond International Raceway with a 7.000.
· Two active drivers have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series average finish in the top 10 at Richmond: Kyle Busch (7.0) and Denny Hamlin (9.7).

Top 10 Drivers with the Best Regular Season Average Finish During the Chase Era (2004-2014)
Jimmie Johnson – 12.435
Jeff Gordon – 13.067
Matt Kenseth – 13.168
Tony Stewart – 13.556
Carl Edwards – 13.624
Kevin Harvick – 14.249
Kyle Busch – 14.576
Dale Earnhardt Jr – 14.779
Denny Hamlin – 14.816
Clint Bowyer – 15.363
*Four drivers have come from outside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup cut-off to make the Chase at Richmond in the previous championship format: Jeremy Mayfield in 2004 made up a 55-point deficit; Ryan Newman in 2005 made up a one-point deficit; Kasey Kahne in 2006 made up a 30-point deficit; Brian Vickers in 2009 made up a 20-point deficit.

· Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2011 to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Keselowski was 11th in points with three wins; Hamlin was12th in points with one win.
· Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon are the two drivers that clinched the Wild Card in 2012 to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Kahne was 11th in points with two wins; Gordon was 12th in points with one win.
· Due to a rare instance in the final race of the regular season that resulted in penalties being issued; a 13th car (Jeff Gordon’s No. 24) was added to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
· There have been two NSCS race resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Richmond International Raceway: spring of 2008 (400/410) and spring of 2013 (400/406).
· Only four of the 116 races at Richmond International Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions: spring of 1962, spring of 1977, spring of 1982 and spring of 2003.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway six times; most recently fall of 2008.
· Brian Vickers (05/15/2004) posted his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Richmond.
· Tony Stewart (09/11/1999) and Kasey Kahne (05/14/2005) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Richmond.
· Eight drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Richmond International Raceway. Richard Petty leads the series in consecutive wins at Richmond after posting seven consecutive wins from the fall of 1970 – 1973. Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep) is the only active driver with consecutive wins at Richmond.
· All of the 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Richmond International Raceway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Tony Stewart won at Richmond in their second appearance.
· Joe Nemechek competed at Richmond International Raceway 18 times before winning in 2003; the longest span of any the 15 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek (18), Kevin Harvick (11) and Jimmie Johnson (10) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Richmond International Raceway.
· Greg Biffle leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Richmond without visiting Victory Lane at 24.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Richmond International Raceway was the (09/12/1998) race won by Jeff Burton with a MOV of 0.051 second.
· Two female drivers have competed at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:
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· Danica Patrick posted her career-best finish (sixth) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this past weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR in Virginia
· There have been 284 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among nine tracks in Virginia.
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· Martinsville Speedway held the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Virginia in 1949; Richmond International Raceway was the second track to host the NSCS in 1953.
· 171 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Virginia.
· 19 drivers from Virginia have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 11 have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
· 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Wendell Scott and 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame driver/owner Glen Wood are the only two drivers from the state of Virginia to be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
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Otmar Szafnauer confident new F1 rules will create ‘uncertainty’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Sergio Perez (L) of Mexico and Sahara Force India and Esteban Ocon of France and Sahara Force India unveil the VJM10 car during the Sahara Force India Formula One team launch at Silverstone on February 22, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer is confident that Formula 1’s new technical regulations will create uncertainty and allow teams to move up the pecking order.

Force India enjoyed its best season in F1 last year, finishing the year fourth in the constructors’ championship behind only Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

For 2017, new technical regulations are set to make the cars significantly quicker over a single lap, prompting teams to place great focus on preparing for the upcoming campaign.

Speaking following the launch of Force India’s new car, the VJM10, Szafnauer was positive about the chances that the new rules would bring for both the tam and the sport.

“Whenever you mix up the rules it’s bound to introduce some uncertainty. There’s the opportunity for teams to achieve or underachieve and if that happens it will disrupt the status quo,” Szafnauer said.

“Will the new rules create better racing? Only time will tell. The cars will be significantly faster – not down the straights, but through the corners – but the braking zones will be reduced and that won’t necessarily have a positive impact on overtaking opportunities.

“I certainly like the aesthetics of the new cars because they remind me of the racing cars of old. I’m sure they will look spectacular on the track too.”

When asked about Force India’s objectives for the year ahead, Szafnauer remained coy, but said that the early signs within the team were positive.

“As a team we have some internal objectives, but it’s very hard for me to verbalize those ambitions because it’s impossible to know what our competitors could achieve given such a huge change of regulations,” Szafnauer said.

“What I can say is that we have met our internal targets for the car – for example in terms of the aero numbers we set as the goal for the launch car. How those targets compare to our competitors is impossible to say until we hit the track.”

Force India will enjoy its first public run with the VJM10 car in Barcelona on Monday at the start of collective pre-season testing.

Fernando Alonso finds Lewis Hamilton’s data sharing comments ‘strange’

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP  in the Drivers Press Conference with Fernando Alonso of Spain and McLaren Honda and Jolyon Palmer of Great Britain and Renault Sport F1  during previews ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 6, 2016 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Fernando Alonso has joked that Lewis Hamilton could have benefited from using more of Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Nico Rosberg’s data through 2016.

Hamilton said in a recent interview that he was uneasy about having to share data with teammates, instead preferring the raw experience found in go-karting where any on-track advantage was kept secret.

Speaking at the launch of McLaren’s new F1 car, the MCL32, on Friday, Alonso jested that Hamilton may have won the championship in 2016 had he used Rosberg’s data more.

Hamilton fell five points short of Rosberg in the race for the title last year, ending his two-year reign as F1 world champion.

“He’s said many times that he was learning from the data. Mercedes also is one of the teams using more of the data, more with the engineers, to help the drivers,” Alonso said, as quoted by crash.net.

“So I think it is a little bit strange to hear from him. If he was watching more data from Rosberg last year, maybe he would have won the championship?”

Alonso enters the new season looking to build on an encouraging 2016 campaign for McLaren that saw it move up the field following a period of struggle with engine partner Honda.

“I think there’s a lot to admire about what we’ve achieved over the past 12 months. Sure, the results haven’t really showcased it, but we’ve really made progress, and I think the whole team has gelled together through those difficult times,” Alonso said.

“Now, at a moment of significant regulatory change, we need to capitalize on that period of uncertainty to push forwards – and I’m confident that we’ve got the expertise to do just that.

“What I’ve seen of the MCL32 appears to be really promising – the new regulations seem to be well thought-out, and the cars look fast and aggressive.

“The look of the car makes me really want to get in the cockpit – I’ve lost none of that all-important hunger every Formula 1 driver needs. Training over the winter has gone well – I worked really hard – and I can’t wait to get going in the car as I say.

“We still think the start of the season will be a challenge – we can’t ignore the fact that we’re still coming from a significant step behind the current front-runners – but I’d like to think we can target the second half of the year as a time when we’ll really be able to start making useful performance steps.

“The aim is to look respectable this year – and I’d like to think we can achieve that.”

Faster cars set for track in Barcelona ahead of new season

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 23:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP drives during the launch of the Mercedes formula one team's 2017 car, the W08, at Silverstone Circuit on February 23, 2017 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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MADRID (AP) Formula One returns to action next week with a test session ahead of a highly anticipated season featuring wider and faster cars to make the series more exciting.

The revamped cars will be on the track in Barcelona on Monday when teams and drivers will get their first real look at what 2017 is going to be like.

“Next week is when we really get to unleash it,” Lewis Hamilton said after Mercedes unveiled its car on Friday.

A second four-day test session will take place in Barcelona from March 7-10.

The first race is the Australian GP on March 26.

The season arrives with regulation changes that significantly altered car design and performance in an attempt to attract more fans and increase track attendance and television audiences.

New aerodynamic and tire rules have given the 2017 cars a meaner look, making them wider and boosting downforce and grip. That translates into faster speeds and, hopefully, more overtaking maneuvers on the track. The rear wings are lower and many of the cars will use a “shark fin” wing on top of the engine.

“The car is wider, tires are bigger, we have a lot more downforce,” Hamilton said. “It’s like taking a small propeller plane and comparing it to a Boeing 737. It’s got so much more performance on it.”

The bigger and quicker cars are also likely to be harder to drive, putting more emphasis on the drivers’ skills and physical conditioning.

Teams are expecting lap times to be three to five seconds faster compared to last year.

“Let’s wait and see,” McLaren veteran Fernando Alonso said. “I think there is some hope that with these regulations we will improve the show. Next week we will have some answers in Barcelona. But definitely it’s a good change for Formula One, something that we probably needed, to have fast and good looking cars.”

The new season will begin without defending champion Nico Rosberg , who retired after winning his first title. Former champion Jenson Button also left, and the Manor team ended, leaving the grid with 20 cars.

Bernie Ecclestone is gone after nearly four decades as F1’s boss. In charge now is U.S. sports and entertainment firm Liberty Media, which took over to try to win back dissatisfied fans and make the series thrilling again.

Here are other things to watch for this season:

MERCEDES’ DOMINANCE

The changes in regulation could help teams cut the gap on Mercedes, which won both the driver and team championships the last three seasons.

The first test session could give an indication of whether teams such as Ferrari and Red Bull will be able to pose a bigger challenge than in 2016. Williams, McLaren and Force India will be hoping to take advantage of the new rules to challenge at the front. Toro Rosso, Renault, Hass and Sauber will try to be near the front more often.

“Maybe we are not going to win 50 races in three years. Maybe we are going to win a couple of races, hopefully a championship. Maybe not, maybe somebody else has done a better job,” Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said. “It’s all back to square one.”

DRIVER CHANGES

Red Bull, Ferrari and Toro Rosso are keeping the same driver lineup from last season. They’re very much the exception.

Valtteri Bottas got the grid’s most-desired seat at Mercedes, replacing the retiring Rosberg. Bottas’ departure from Williams prompted 35-year-old Felipe Massa to end his own retirement and return to the team.

Former Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein takes Felipe Nasr’s job at Sauber, while Kevin Magnussen left Renault to join American team Haas. Nico Hulkenberg replaced Magnussen at Renault after leaving Force India.

YOUNG TALENT

A few new drivers will be trying to emulate the success of Max Verstappen, who stunned F1 last season by becoming the youngest driver to win a race at age 18.

Lance Stroll, 18, will be replacing Bottas at Williams, while 24-year-old Stoffel Vandoorne comes in for Button at McLaren.

Esteban Ocon, 20, made nine starts with Manor last season and secured a ride with Force India for 2017.

The 22-year-old Wehrlein will not be able to test his new Sauber next week because he injured his back at a racing event last month.

MCLAREN DOUBTS

Going back to the orange livery from the 1960s, McLaren will be hoping to win its first race since 2012.

But there are doubts about whether the renewed partnership with Honda will finally start paying off after two disappointing seasons in which the team struggled to contend for victories or even podium finishes.

There was improvement a year ago, but the pressure for better results this season will increase.

Fresh reset on tap for Takuma Sato at Andretti Autosport

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For a driver you don’t think of as having been long a part of the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock, Takuma Sato is that and more as he prepares to enter his eighth full-time season in 2017.

Sato’s longevity is such that he did parts of seven years and 90 Grand Prix starts from 2002 through 2008, before a one-year gap prior to his arrival in IndyCar in 2010, where he’s now made 118 starts in seven years.

With KV Racing Technology, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and A.J. Foyt Enterprises, Sato was very much enigmatic. His speed and determination was never in question and he produced a number of edge-of-your-seat highlight reel moments; few will forget his daring attempt on Dario Franchitti to win the 2012 Indianapolis 500 with RLL, for example, and a year later he finally secured his first win with Foyt at Long Beach on a track he’s long excelled at.

But despite his undoubted pace, his “no attack, no chance” style sometimes got him into more trouble than he desired.

Sato’s presence in the paddock is a good one because his attitude is forthright, he’s very good with the media (both the American and Japanese media) and he has a seemingly eternal, effervescent smile on his face.

He doesn’t look a day over 32 years old, even though he turned 40 in January.

And with Andretti Autosport, Sato has his best team dynamic available yet as he moves into one of the generally considered “big three” teams for the first time in his career.

He’s been on a single-car team at both RLL and Foyt, a two-car team at Foyt and a three-car team at KV, but has not yet been part of a four-car effort as he will have at Andretti. He’s in the No. 26 Honda with teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi and Marco Andretti.

“I’m very excited. Obviously you want to have more time in the car for the preseason. But there is a lot of progression to be done over the winter,” Sato told NBC Sports.

“I’m already having a good time together with the team.”

Sato will be reunited with engineer Garrett Mothershead, who he worked with at KV his first two years in the series. Together, Sato won his first two poles at Iowa and Edmonton.

Both Sato and Rossi suffered setbacks during the Phoenix test, both drivers losing the back end in Turn 2 and hitting the wall. Both were on qualifying simulations.

Despite that, Sato felt positive with the improvements made to the car on a short oval compared to last year. Foyt’s team struggled on the short ovals with the same Honda package, which is a bit down to Chevrolet on the short ovals, and Sato was able to denote the differences and enhancements Andretti’s team had made.

“In the end it was a qualifying simulation and balance was off. It was a shame and I hate it for the crew,” Sato said.

“Other than that, we made a car that was much better car. We made good progress with all four drivers working together, and our engineering is strong.”

One of the things Sato is renowned for is his ability on street courses. He’s been rather exciting to watch on those circuits over his career, and his setup and feedback work should help the team going forward on these tracks, starting with St. Petersburg.

One of Sato’s teammates, Hunter-Reay, called Sato “one of the fastest guys out there” and is “looking forward to hearing his perspective.”

Expectations aren’t the highest given the struggles of the Honda package compared to Chevrolet. And Sato’s career place in the standings hasn’t been higher than 13th in seven years – incidentally, in 2011 when he last worked with Mothershead.

Although the field is deep, Sato is hopeful of a couple steps forward results and points-wise this year. The Andretti Autosport team wants to be best in class among those with Hondas.

“I have good memories in St. Petersburg! So hopefully we’re competitive there,” Sato said.

“Hopefully we can win a race. Since it’s a frozen package this year, I don’t see a big difference compared to last year. But the personal situation is that I’m in a different team and environment, and that’s big. I’m looking forward to it.”