Lotus driver Takuma Sato had to overcome a drive through penalty to finish eighth today in the Milwaukee 225 on the Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Tony Kanaan battled for the win until late in the race, but fell victim to an incident and finished 19th while E. J. Viso was fighting for a top-four finish when he too was victimized and finished 20th.
Sato, #5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus, started fifth but quickly moved into fourth where he remained until the latter stages of the first stint which saw him drop to ninth. During his first pit stop he became entangled with some of hiscrew and as a result lost time and incurred a “drive through” penalty. Re-joining the race in 15th and one lap off the pace, Sato, with the help of a solid pit strategy and great pit work by his KVRT – Lotus crew, un-lapped himself and fought his way back through the field to earn his fourth top-10 finish of the season.
“It was a tough, long race,” Sato said. “I was able to run a comfortable pace at the start of the race. In the middle of the stint I started to struggle with the balance and it was difficult to maintain the pace. Then during the pit stop it was very crowded and I got tangled up getting into the pit box. So I got a drive through penalty, which put me at the back of the field and down a lap, but over the next two caution yellows we managed to get our lapback and I fought my way back into the top-10. I want to give a big thank you to my crew. They did a great job. It was a difficult day for the team, but I had a good experience in my first Milwaukee race.”
Sato, who wore a black armband in today’s race in memory of his father, Kazutoshi Sato, who passed away on Wednesday, June 15, made his first start in Milwaukee today. The 34-year-old from Japan has earned this season IZOD IndyCarcareer high fifth place finishes at St. Petersburg and Texas plus eighth place finishes here in Milwaukee and Brazil. Sato scored 24 points today and moved up to ninth in the championship standings with 142 points.
Kanaan, #82 GEICO – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, started a season high fourth, but quickly moved into third where he ran with the leaders throughout the first stint. He took over second place shortly after the first pit stop and then stormed into the lead on lap 116. He spent the remainder of the second stint fighting with Dario Franchitti leading for 18 laps dropping back and then leading for another 13 laps (33 total). Kanaan fell to third after the second pit stop, but was back in second shortly thereafter. For the remainder of his race, he put pressure on race leader Helio Castroneves, who was reporting to have a problem with his left rear tire. On lap 194 of the 225 lap contest, Kanaan attempted to make his move, but it didn’t work out.
“Well, it started out as a good day for the GEICO – KVRT – Lotus team,” Kanaan said. “The car was good on the long runs. We raced each other pretty hard and when I saw the opportunity to pass Helio in lapped traffic I went. Unfortunately it didn’t work and I lost the rear. It’s a shame because I hate to make mistakes especially when it was an easy first or second place car. But hey, I was trying as hard as I could…that one just slipped away from us.”
Kanaan, who has now led four different Milwaukee races, has finished in the top-10 seven times including five top-five performances with two wins, 2006 and 2007 in 12 starts on the Milwaukee Mile (five CART sanctioned events and seven IndyCar). He has finished in the top-10 in five of the eight races this year (counting Texas as two races) with three top-five placements and a podium performance (third at St. Petersburg). Kanaan earned 12 points today and sits sixth in the championship race with 171 points, 17 points out of third. The 36-year-old Brazilian made his 139th consecutive IndyCar start today establishing a new IZOD IndyCar record (all-time record held by KVRT – Lotus co-owner Jimmy Vasser with 211).
Viso, #59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, started an oval career high and season high sixth and was never lower than that the entire race. Driving his best race of the year the young Venezuelan was solidly in fourth place, where he spent much of his race, and very much in line for his best finish of the season. However, on lap 163 he attempted to pass another car and slid into the wall ending his day.
“We had an amazing race and a great setup that was a combination of all my teammate’s preferences,” Viso said. “I really think I had a good car, maybe not as fast as the leaders but we had a car to finish in the top five at the most. I was passing the lap car and I got high and went into the marbles and it sent me into the wall. That is what happens and it is unfortunate. I feel bad for the mechanics and my crew because they put this car together for me. I am looking forward to Iowa now and there is nothing else we can do.”
Viso made his third start in Milwaukee today having previously competed here in 2008 and 2009. His best finish is eighth in his Milwaukee debut in 2008. Viso, who was coming off consecutive top-10 finishes, seventh in the first race in Texas and 10th in the second, for which he won the Firestone Tire-ific Award in each race, earned 12 points today and remains 20th in the standings with 100 points.
Next up for KVRT – Lotus is the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer, June 24-25, at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. The race will be broadcast live, Sunday, June 25 on Versus at 8:00 p.m. ET
KVRT – Lotus picks up third Firestone Tire-ific Award:
Viso collected the Firestone Tire-ific Awards for his outstanding performances in each of the two Texas events (improved 12 positions in the first race and 19 in the second for a total of 31 overall). All three KVRT – Lotus drivers have now won the award this year. Kanaan won it in St. Petersburg and Sato captured the award in Brazil.