Sato, No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, qualified with a two-lap average speed of 180.375 mph on the .875-mile D-shaped oval. Tony Kanaan, No. 82 GEICO- KV Racing Technology – Lotus, went out second of the 25 cars making a qualifying attempt and posted a speed of 179.833 mph putting him on the pole until Sato, who went out 21st, made his run. Kanaan will start a season-high third. E. J. Viso, No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, had an average speed of 177.680 mph placing him 19th on the grid, the same as he qualified last year when he finished an IndyCar career-high third.
Sato captured his first pole in just his 26th IndyCar start, 13th on an oval and second at Iowa. This is the third “official” pole and fourth overall in team history. Jimmy Vasser captured the team’s first pole at Milwaukee in 2005. Tristan Gommendy followed with a pole at Mont Tremblant in 2007 and Will Power took the pole at the Surfers Paradise “exhibition” race in 2008.
“I want to say a big thank you to the whole team, the fans, the sponsors and everyone who has supported me,” Sato said. “It is a fantastic achievement. I knew we were going to be competitive because of last year and this morning I was truly comfortable in the car. I could feel where we needed to be with the setup for qualifying. Working so closely today with the three KVRT – Lotus drivers, working so closely with my engineers, we had a great answer. The mechanics also did a great job preparing the car. I am very pleased with today’s result.”
Sato made his Iowa debut last year qualifying seventh and running strong until an incident late in the race ended his day. He has now qualified in the top-10 five times in eight attempts this year with three top-five starting spots and the pole. Sato, whose previous best qualifying position was third at Mid-Ohio, last year, has shown remarkable improvement on ovals and steadily asserted himself during his second IndyCar season. He qualified a team-high 10th at the Indianapolis 500, but went out early finishing 33rd. At Texas, he qualified a team-high (and then oval career-high) fourth for the first race then finished an IndyCar career-high tying fifth. In the second race, he drew the 25th grid position, but drove a strong race and finished 12th. Sato qualified fifth at Milwaukee and despite a penalty that dropped him well back in the field he battled his way to a eighth place finish. Overall this season, Sato has earned four top-10 finishes (fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas, eighths at Milwaukee and Brazil). He is ninth in the championship standings with 142 points.
Kanaan, the defending Iowa champion, earned his best starting position and fourth top-10 starting spot in five attempts at Iowa. His victory last year is the only time he has finished in the top-10. This is Kanaan’s fifth (not counting the fact he drew the pole in the second race in Texas) top-10 starting position this season.
Commenting on qualifying Kanaan said, “Not a bad run for the GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus guys. This track is always a challenge and to qualify near the front is a big advantage. You know, you always hate to see your number fall from the pole position during qualifications, but if it has to happen the only way it is acceptable is for a teammate’s number to be sitting on top of yours. I am proud for Takuma and for the KVRT – Lotus organization as a whole. Tomorrow is going to be a very interesting race under the lights at Iowa Speedway”.
Kanaan has been the strongest of the three KVRT – Lotus drivers this year, especially on ovals. He qualified 22nd at Indy, but drove a great race to finish fourth, started sixth for the first race in Texas and finished 11th then, through the luck of the draw, got the pole and finished fifth in the second race. At Milwaukee, he qualified a team-high (and season-high) fourth and led 33 laps before a late race incident ended his day in 19th place. Kanaan has led a total of 72 laps this season, all on ovals. In the eight races this year (counting Texas as two races), Kanaan has finished in the top-10 five times with three top-five placements and a podium performance (third at St. Petersburg). He sits sixth in the championship race with 171 points, 17 points out of third.
Viso, who will be making his fourth appearance in Iowa, has struggled in qualifying this year, but it seems to have little effect on his performance in the races. At Texas, Viso started 19th in the first race then charged through the field to finish seventh. He started 29th in the second event, but again fought his way into the top-10 finishing 10th. In all, Viso picked up 31 total positions in the two races and finished in the top-10 in consecutive races for the first time in his four-year IndyCar career. At Milwaukee, Viso started a season-high, and oval career-high sixth, but quickly moved into fourth where he remained until the latter stages of the contest when an incident ended his day. Viso currently sits 20th in the standings with 100 points, but a strong performance in here tomorrow could easily move him into the top-15.
“Since the first practice here in Iowa it has been difficult for the PDVSA – KVRT – Lotus crew. We just came from a race in Milwaukee where I was running good but we damaged the primary car, so we had to go to the back-up car. I am not saying that is the reason we are slow, but it does raise some doubts. Anyway there is nothing we can do but stay strong and work hard. The one thing we know is that our best results this year have come when we started from the back. Also, last year I started 19th here, the same as this year, and finished third, so I am excited and confident we can have a very good race tomorrow.”
Sato led the team in the first practice with a speed of 181.031 mph (17.7782 seconds) putting him second on the practice report. Kanaan, who spent much of the practice in third, was 10th at the end with a lap of 179.924 mph (17.8876 seconds). Viso, who got as high as 13th, ended up 21st with a speed of 178.843 mph (17.9952 seconds). Following qualifying there was another practice session giving drivers and engineers the opportunity to work with the cars at night in similar conditions to tomorrow’s race.
The Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer will be broadcast live, Sunday, June 25 on Versus at 8:00 p.m. ET