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April 22, 2013

Sato claims first Indy car race

Takuma Sato became the first driver from Japan to win an Indy car race, prevailing in the 39th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Sato, who started fourth in the 80-lap race on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit, provided A.J. Foyt Racing its first victory since July 7, 2002, at Kansas Speedway with Airton Dare behind the wheel. The last win for the team on a road/street course was by A.J. Foyt on Oct. 1, 1978, at Silverstone. Overall, A.J. Foyt Racing has 44th victories.

“Takuma made it look too easy,” team director and race strategist Larry Foyt said. “It made me so nervous watching it out there. He just drove a flawless race.”

Sato, making his 52nd IZOD IndyCar Series start, overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay for second on Lap 23 and assumed the point on Lap 30 when race leader Will Power pitted under yellow. The remainder of the race Sato’s No. 14 ABC Supply car was strong on both the Firestone primary and alternate tires.

“It was just a perfect weekend to be honest,” said Sato, whose previous best finish was second at Edmonton in 2012. “The team did a tremendous job. It is great news for the Japanese. Japan has had such a tough time after the earthquake. I’m really happy to give everybody some good news.”

Sato led Graham Rahal across the finish line under caution. It was the best finish for Rahal since finishing second at Texas last June. Justin Wilson, who won that race at Texas Motor Speedway, advanced from the 24th starting position to finish third.

Sato is the third winner in as many IZOD IndyCar Series races this season and climbed to second in the championship standings. Helio Castroneves, who finished 10th, has a six-point lead heading into the May 5 race on the street circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Honda-powered teams swept the podium for the first time this season.

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