Photo: IndyCar

Sato tops final session as RLL sweeps testing at ISM Raceway

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For the third time during the weekend of testing at ISM Raceway, Takuma Sato led the way in his No. 15 Mijack Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Given that teammate Graham Rahal was fastest during Friday night practice as well, it means that the RLL duo swept the weekend for the Bobby Rahal led team, with one of their drivers going fastest in each session.

Sato’s best lap came in at 189.855 mph, eclipsing his speed from afternoon practice to set the fastest lap of the weekend. He also completed the most laps – 158 – of all 22 drivers who took to the track on Saturday night.

“Wrap up today’s open test, very successful I would say,” Sato asserted in a video posted on RLL’s twitter page. “Lots of things to learn and lots of things that we tried, and I think over the course of two days we learned a lot. A great car, definitely more exercise for the driver, definitely busier (with) low downforce. But, we (completed) qualifying sims, race traffic runs. I think the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team is really strong.”

Behind Sato was Team Penske’s Will Power, who mirrored his performance from Saturday afternoon practice to put his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet in second.

Tony Kanaan put his No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing in third, with defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden putting his No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet in fourth for Team Penske. Fifth went to Marco Andretti in the No. 98 U.S. Concrete Honda for Andretti Herta Autosport.

The Saturday night session saw four incidents that brought out caution periods, ending a string of remarkably clean running across the two days of testing. One incident was for Scott Dixon, who drifted high exiting Turn 2 in the final 30 minutes of running. His No. 9 PNC Bank Honda eventually made contact with the wall, enough to damage the car and force Dixon to stop on the track. He climbed from the car unhurt, though he was finished for the session.

The other three incidents were for A.J. Foyt Racing driver Matheus Leist, who drifted high first in Turns 1 and 2 and then two more times in Turns 3 and 4. On all three occasions, Leist made light contact with the wall, but did not incur significant, if any damage, during any of the incidents.

Results for the Saturday night session, the final one of the weekend at ISM Raceway, can be found here.

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NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.