Sato paces final Phoenix session; Dixon has rare spin

Sato paces final Phoenix session; Dixon has rare spin


Sato paces final Phoenix session; Dixon has rare spin


In the four practice sessions over two days at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Takuma Sato was fastest in three of them and second best in the other.

The 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner backed up his Saturday afternoon speed with the fastest lap in Saturday night’s final three-hour session – 19.379 seconds at 189.855mph in his Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Honda.

But it was plenty crowded at the top as Sato barely edged Will Power’s best effort of 19.387s (189.769mph) in the Team Penske Chevrolet and Tony Kanaan’s 19.401s (189.632) in A.J. Foyt’s Chevy.

“To wrap up today’s test, the open test was very successful, I would say,” Sato said. “Lots of things done and lots of thing to be tried, and I think over the course of two days we learned a lot. Great car, definitely more exercise for the drivers, definitely busier with low downforce.

“I think the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is really strong, so I’m really looking forward to two more road course tests and hopefully we’ll be ready for St. Pete.”

Defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was fourth fastest at 19.425s (189.399mph) in another Penske Chevy while Marco Andretti was fifth and the final member of the 189mph club at 19.465s (189.008) in the Andretti Honda.

The top 15 drivers were separated by less than four-tenths of a second around the one-mile oval as there was plenty of traffic and a few close calls but no major damage in the final hour.

Rookie Matheus Leist was a thrill show all by himself in Foyt’s other car as he caromed off the Turn 2 wall 90 minutes into the evening session, then came back and twice made light contact with Turn 4 during the final half hour.

But the 19-year-old Brazilian still wound up 12th overall out of 22 cars and made a couple of spectacular passes in between his incidents.

And four-time IndyCar king Scott Dixon also slapped the Turn 2 wall with about 35 minutes left in the session in Chip Ganassi’s Honda – incurring minor damage.

“We were just in traffic, there. It was our second or third lap out of the pits,” said Dixon, who still finished with the seventh-fastest lap. “A couple of the Andretti cars got by and were a little bit slower. I got low in (Turns) 1 and 2, touched the throttle and had a bit of a run and lost the rear. Kind of late in the corner, but just touched with the rear and bent the left rear suspension.”  

For combined times, click here.