KV Racing Technology drivers Takuma Sato, Tony Kanaan and E. J. Viso finished 15th, 17th and 23rd respectively today in the penultimate race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season, the Meijer Indy 300 on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval in Sparta, Kentucky.
Sato, No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, who failed to qualify in the top-10 on an oval for the first time this season started 22nd. He fought hard all day and slowly but surely moved up the grid getting as high as ninth, however for most of the race he battled for spot in the top 15, which he did with skill and determination all race. Sato contested his second race at Kentucky this afternoon. In his debut last year he started 14th and finished 27th.
“It was a very tough race,” Sato said. “At the beginning the car was so loose I almost lost it several times. But the main problem was we just didn’t have overall speed, so I just kept following other cars using the draft. I gained a lot of positions on the restarts, but then I would get overtaken because the car was slow. In the end I was pleased that I finished the race. We did everything we could and we showed strength as a team. The pit stops were great. The crew did a good job. We need to go back and review what we did this weekend because we were not at our best today.”
Sato earned 15 points today and now 13th in the standings with 297 points, just 17 out of 10th. The 34-year-old from Japan is having a solid year in his second IndyCar season. Sato has finished in the top-10 seven times including his first three IndyCar top-five finishes (career-high fourth at Mid-Ohio, fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas). He has also earned his first two IndyCar poles (Iowa and Edmonton) becoming the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar pole and led his first IndyCar race (Brazil) and subsequently three others. On ovals, Sato has earned three top-10 finishes (oval career-high fifth at Texas race No. 1, New Hampshire – seventh and Milwaukee – eighth), his first career IndyCar pole and led his first oval laps, seven, at Iowa (also led 13 laps at New Hampshire).
Kanaan, No. 82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, started 19th and had a similar race to his teammate. He battled all day getting as high as 13th, but mainly settled into a fight for a finish inside the top-20 where his patience and his vast experience paid off in valuable championship points. Kanaan made his ninth appearance at Kentucky today. He has finished in the top-10 seven times with five top-five showings including a win also in 2007.
“We were slow, slow all day long,” Kanaan said. “There was nothing I could do to make the car go any faster, so I took every start and restart to gain positions and did my best to maintain them during the green flag periods. But the car really didn’t help. As soon as the field began to stretch I started losing positions again. It was a painful day for the GEICO – KVRT – Lotus guys.”
Kanaan scored 13 points today and remains fifth in the championship race with 366 points. The 36-year-old Brazilian is having his best season in three years and is looking to become the first KVRT driver to finish in the top-five in the final standings. KVRT – Lotus co-owner Jimmy Vasser holds the team record with a sixth place finish in 2005. Kanaan leads KVRT – Lotus with nine top-10 finishes including seven top-five showings and three podiums (second at Iowa, thirds at St. Petersburg and Baltimore). In six oval events this year, he has earned three top-five finishes with one podium (Indy 500 – fourth; Texas2 – fifth and Iowa – second) and led 97 laps (Texas2 – 39, Milwaukee – 33 and Iowa – 25).
Viso, No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, started 23rd and stayed between 23rd and 25th through the first round of pit stops. However, he pitted a second time early in the second stint for an adjustment which dropped him to 28th and put him several laps down. In one of the more dramatic moments of the race Simona de Silvestro barreled through Viso’s pit scattering crew and tires and injuring one team member, Chief Mechanic Darrin (D. J.) McMahon (fractured knee). Viso made his fourth start at Kentucky Speedway today. His best finish is 13th in 2008.
“It’s definitely a race to forget,” Viso said. “From the beginning the car was undriveable. It was extremely loose and I almost lost it several times. Therefore we made the decision to pit early and make some changes which we believed would fix the car and it did. Once I returned to the track the car was way better and stable enough to make it to the end of the race, but we didn’t have the pace and were a number of laps down. I also feel very bad for my Chief Mechanic, DJ McMahon who was injured by Simona de Silvestro in the pits. He unfortunately fractured his knee and hopefully will get better soon. As a team we are disappointed of the results, but we have one more shot (Vegas Final) to put all our best efforts to bring home a stellar result.”
Viso picked up 12 points today and remains 18th in the standings with 241 points. The 26-year-old Venezuelan has had some very strong performances during the 2011 season even if the final results haven’t always been what they should, mostly due to a plethora of what can only be described as bad luck. Viso has finished in the top-10 four times this year, twice on ovals, a season-high seventh in race one at Texas and 10th in the second plus road-course season-high ninths at Toronto and Sonoma. He has led two laps on an oval this year both at Texas No. 2.
KVRT – Lotus has been competitive on ovals this year. In the seven oval races, counting Texas as two starts, KVRT – Lotus has finished in the top-10 eight times, including four top-five showings and one podium performance (Kanaan, second in Iowa). The team has one pole (Sato in Iowa) and led laps at Texas, Milwaukee, Iowa and New Hampshire.
Next up for KVRT – Lotus is the season ending IZOD IndyCar World Championships, October 13-16, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada. The race will be broadcast live on October 16 on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET.