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Watch Takuma Sato Hit a Wall at 230 MPH, Finish a Qualifying Run Anyway

·2 min read
Photo credit: IndyCar / Twitter
Photo credit: IndyCar / Twitter

With exactly a field-filling 33 entries for next Sunday's Indianapolis 500, this weekend's qualifying program is a little different from the usual format. That means no Bump Day, which means today's session is only to set the 12 drivers that will fight for pole tomorrow.

Takuma Sato, among the fastest in every practice session this week, was comfortably in that group after his first qualifying run. Then it was invalidated, a penalty for impeding Marco Andretti's qualifying run while cooling down. With rain fast approaching and no guarantee it would clear up in time for more runs later today, Sato knew that his next run was his one shot to qualify into that group. That meant staying flat out no matter what happened on his four-lap run. And something certainly happened.

Sato's first two laps, average speeds of 232.4 and 231.8 MPH, were the beginning of a run good enough for around 14th. That meant he could not afford to slow down on lap 3, so he hammered the throttle on exit of turn 2 and washed up the track. So far up the track that he hit the wall at 230 MPH. But lifting now meant the run was over and Sato would risk going from a shot at pole to starting around 31st, so he stayed in the throttle. He hit 238 MPH on the straight that followed.

Sato's third lap, including the contact with the wall, was a 231.2. He stayed in the throttle for a fourth, another 231.2, and completed the 10-mile run despite hitting a wall at full speed six miles in. That was enough to get to exactly 12th, the cutoff line for pole qualifying tomorrow. Rain arrived shortly afterward, and if it persists through the day this run will be enough to give Sato and Dale Coyne Racing a chance at pole tomorrow.

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