Takuma Sato and A.J. Foyt pose with the Verizon P1 Award following qualifying for the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston. (Photo: Getty Images)

and A.J. Foyt pose with the Verizon P1 Award following qualifying for the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston. (Photo: Getty Images)

A.J. Foyt picked the perfect weekend to make his return to the race track following hip replacement surgery.

Takuma Sato won the pole for Saturday’s first race of the Houston Grand Prix doubleheader, giving Houston-based A.J. Foyt Racing its first pole since Billy Boat’s run at Atlanta in 1999.

“It means a lot, particularly since it’s Houston, where the team is based,” Sato said. “It’s A.J.’s first time at a race in a long, long time.”

Foyt was on hand for the brief celebration behind the pit stand in his first appearance at a track since he was at Texas in June. His hip replacement surgery on July 1 forced him to miss eight races while he recovered at his ranch in Houston.

“I think we won `Happiest Team Winning A Pole’ award,” said Larry Foyt, team general manager. “It’s definitely special, having Dad back and being able to turn around have him right there, I know he was happy. That was an awesome feeling. We’ve got so many people here, all our friends and family.”

Foyt’s attendance at races this season has been sporadic because of his health, and the 78-year-old missed Sato’s victory at Long Beach in April. That win was the first for the team since 2002, and first on a road or street course since Foyt was the driver in 1978.

He’s the grand marshal of Saturday and Sunday’s races at Reliant Park, where is racing for the first time since 2007.

But in typical Foyt fashion, his celebration of Sato’s pole was short-lived Saturday.

“It’s great to be in your hometown and win the pole, so I’m real happy and real thrilled — just as long as we finish first,” Foyt said.

Qualifying results Saturday for IndyCar’s Houston 1 race on Saturday at Reliant Park (car number in parentheses):

1. (14) Takuma Sato, Japan, 97.305 seconds.

2. (12) Will Power, Australia, 96.192.

3. (9) Scott Dixon, New Zealand, 97.06.

4. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, France, 95.663.

5. (77) Simon Pagenaud, France, 97.04.

6. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Switzerland, 95.567.

7. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Canada, 96.098.

8. (98) Luca Filippi, Italy, 95.413.

9. (5) E.J. Viso, Venezuela, 95.918.

10. (10) Dario Franchitti, Scotland, 95.308.

11. (16) James Jakes, England, 95.855.

12. (25) Marco Andretti, United States, 95.199.

13. (18) Mike Conway, England, 95.625.

14. (19) Justin Wilson, England, 95.174.

15. (11) Tony Kanaan, Brazil, 95.585.

16. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, United States, 95.138.

17. (83) Charlie Kimball, United States, 95.443.

18. (4) Oriol Servia, Spain, 95.024.

19. (15) Graham Rahal, United States, 94.856.

20. (67) Josef Newgarden, United States, 94.635.

21. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, Colombia, 94.698.

22. (3) Helio Castroneves, Brazil, 94.447.

23. (20) Ed Carpenter, United States, 92.608.

24. (55) Tristan Vautier, France

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