Takuma Sato scores first IndyCar Series victory at Long Beach

In his 52nd career start, Takuma Sato would run away from the field at the end of the race to score his first career victory. It marks the first victory by a Japanese driver ever in the IndyCar Series.

“The team did a tremendous job,” Sato said. “The car was great. Pit stops were perfect – great call. Just an incredible feeling.”

 


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Sato would grab the lead with just over 40 laps left in the event and never look back, leading the rest of the way despite some late race restarts.

“I think it was really perfect,” he added. “I think the way the say this is it is an easy win. Can’t believe that it came together like it did. It’s just a day where everything fell together.”

It also marks the first road course/street course victory for A.J. Foyt Racing since 1978.

Graham Rahal would bounce back from his early season bad luck to finish second while Justin Wilson avoided trouble to complete the podium after problems during practice on Friday.

“Just a little bit of luck, circumstances and the team did a good job with the strategy,” he said. “We came in five six laps and put on the reds and pushed hard the entire race and I think that helped. It was great to get the result. Everybody worked hard to put the car back together on Friday.”

Looking to get back into the championship hunt after some early season struggles, Dario Franchitti would finish fourth.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We were good for that first stint, had a bad pit stop which cost a few spots. We adjusted and then there was Charlie (Kimball) there that was just going for glory. I lost some track position there, but good result for the Target team after the first couple of weeks.”

J.R. Hildebrand rounded out the top five. Oriol Servia finishes sixth, followed by Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Simona de Silvestro and points leader Helio Castroneves. Castroneves now leads Sato by only eight points as the top six are within 28 points following the third race of the season.

Several Championship favourites ran into problems throughout the day. Scott Dixon’s day started ugly after he had a flat tire on the first lap due to contact with rookie Tristan Vautier. Vautier would recieve a penalty of “avoidable contact”.

Following his last place finish at Barber, James Hinchcliffe was looking to bounce back. However, he would sustain heavy damage in a crash on the restart with 35 laps to go. Teammates E.J. Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay also collected damage in the incident.

“From my point of view, Tony (Kanaan) got a killer start and while we were in the break-zone, he just turned in on me,” Hinchcliffe said after the race. “I was trying to defend on Pagenaud and I got squeezed. I guess it’s just one of those racing deals. Restarts here are tough as you are always on top of each other. It sucks. I thought we had played the right tire strategy and were going to be there at the end.”

Defending series champion Hunter-Reay would have more problems when he ran into the turn eight tire barriers while trying to make a pass on Ana Beatriz.

“I just started getting desperate,” he admitted. “We just couldn’t go anywhere we just missing grip in corners. I just got desperate and started trying things. We were in the back there. I had to try something. I got inside of Ana there and there was no grip. Just made a bad day worse. We definitely have to bounce back in Brazil.”

Penske Racing driver Will Power ran into problems on pit road with contact between himself and Vautier.

Sebastian Saavedra would run into problems early in the race, hitting the wall in turn three.

Coming off of a good run at Barber, Charlie Kimball was hoping to carry his momentum forward. However, he would get tagged by Alex Tagliani on lap 31. He would run into more problems, hitting the turn one tires with 25 laps to go while battling for the lead.

A.J. Allmendinger was also looking for a good run as he prepares for the Indianapolis 500 in May, though would stall in turn five with 29 laps to go.

With two laps to go, Tony Kanaan looked like he’d score a solid finish within the top five, however contact between himself and Oriol Servia with two laps to go ended those chances.


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