Sato saves Honda’s day with another St. Pete Fast Six appearance

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ST. PETERSBURG – After ending the 2014 season with three top-six finishes in the final five races, Takuma Sato carried whatever possible momentum from that finish possible into the opening qualifying session of 2015 with a fifth place effort in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda.

Sato, the 2014 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg polesitter, wasn’t quite able to match that feat in Saturday’s session.

However, in a similarly impressive performance, Sato upheld Honda’s honor as the manufacturer’s only representative in the Firestone Fast Six. He qualified fifth, for his first top-five start of 2015 after banking a total of four during the 2014 season.

“Well, I think it’s pretty important for us to be in the Fast Six,” said Sato. “The last two seasons, this track is very kind to me, being able to putting a good result in qualifying. Today it wasn’t like that way.

“As I said, obviously congrats to the Team Penske with the dominance over the qualifying,” he added. “Particularly well done for Will.”

What was frustrating to him though was that new teammate Jack Hawksworth was unable to match his pace in qualifying, after showing decently well during practice. Sato noted an issue, but praised the Larry Foyt-led team’s efforts to expand back to a full-time two-car effort.

“I’m very proud of the team, particularly from a one-car team to a two-car team,” Sato said. “Really the team worked hard to put everything together.

“Jack had a little issue today. But we gathered really good data from yesterday and made a significant improvement over the first practice session. So I think it was good.”

Sato has a decent record at St. Petersburg, with fifth (2011), eighth (2013) and seventh (2014) place finishes on his resume.

He stands the best chance, after qualifying anyway, of delivering a podium finish for Honda in the first race with the new manufacturer aero kits.

Behind Sato, it doesn’t look great for Honda. Ryan Hunter-Reay slots in eighth, with Simona de Silvestro and Marco Andretti the next best placed Hondas in 11th and 12th.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.