Sato claims first win on streets of Long Beach

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Takuma Sato previous best finish was second at Edmonton 2012.

LONG BEACH, Calif. - 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.

Victory circle: race winner Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda, second place Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, third place Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing
Victory circle: race winner Takuma Sato, A.J. Foyt Enterprises Honda, second place Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, third place Justin Wilson, Dale Coyne Racing

Photo by: IndyCar Series

"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.

SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA (No. 6 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "It was a wild start. Battling with Simona there, I think she had some front damage, so I was taking advantage of it. Went into the corner and lost the control from the back and tried to catch it, and when I caught it I just went straight into the wall, one of those things. It's just an unfortunate situation, we've been strong throughout the weekend, we just needed a good finish and to try to bring the car home. It didn't happen. It feels very bad to be honest, we shouldn't have been in this situation. We'll keep working for the next."

RYAN HUNTER REAY (No. 1 DHL Chevrolet): "I just started getting desperate. We couldn't go anywhere. We missed some of the grip today that we had in prior days. Some of the corners that were my strongest were my weakest today. I was definitely handcuffed, so we just started trying things. We were in the back anyway, I had to move forward again and I just got in too hot, no grip on the inside there. Just trying things, trying anything to make a bad day go a little better, but it just went from bad to worse. I feel really bad for the guys, they gave me a great car all weekend, we just missed it today. I absolutely missed it out there on the track, so we have to rebound in Brazil for sure and try to get the DHL Chevy on top again."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, winner Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach): "It was just a perfect weekend to be honest. The team did a tremendous job. Pit stops, right calls, the power was great and I was comfortable in the car and able to push everything. (About pit stops): "Super job. Super job. We had a pit issue the last two races, but today is just amazing the whole crew did a tremendous job." (What win will mean in Japan): "It 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 to wake up to because it's very early Japanese time.

LARRY FOYT (Managing Director, A.J. Foyt Racing): "I wish (A.J. Foyt) was here. We hate it because he is definitely our big leader and he is the big boss man. This is for him." (About win): "Takuma made it look too easy. It made me so nervous watching it out there. He just drove a flawless race. I've never seen a race like that. Just a perfect race. And the car was great. The engineers did a great set up. And what a pit crew. Those guys were fast today. And it just all came together. We have been saying that. We've had flashes of being really quick and we just had to bring it all together. The ABC car just looked awesome up front all day."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda): "I think we just performed the way we ought to each and every weekend. We came out here and the Midas/Big O Tires car was right there all week. Qualifying was a little bit disappointing to be 11th but we were in the top-five in almost every session. I felt going into the race that is exactly what we could do there. To be honest is just feels phenomenal to get this result. God I came so close to winning yet again. On the last restart if (Charlie) Kimball weren't in the way we would have had a great run at it. And clearly he overshot himself into (Turn) 1. Man it felt so good to be on the podium here."

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It was a little bit of luck, circumstances and the team did a great job on strategy. We pitted on Lap 5 or 6. Came in and put the reds on. We had plenty of reds because we didn't qualify. We just went out there and pushed hard the entire race. I think that helped having an extra set, being able to pick a few people off. It's great to get this result for the Boy Scouts of America and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing. They've worked hard to put the car back together on Friday so I have to thank them. It's also good for Honda here at Long Beach to get 1-2-3-4. I think it's fantastic."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Not ideal we lost, you know we lost a couple of spots in the pits and then we lost another one there on the restart with Charlie being a lap down and I don't know what the hell he was doing. With a crash right in front of us, I had to lift to avoid it. And Justin got by after that and the guys in the front were pretty evenly matched after that, as Justin and I were. And I couldn't get close enough to make a move and then I had to start watching my fuel. Yea, you know not another great day for the Target team, but after the first two results this is a lot better. We're getting there, we're getting there."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Honda): "I'm really proud of the run we had and the pit crew guys did such an awesome job, because we made up three or four of those spots in the pits on our last stop. We struggled in the first stint and were going backwards, but we had a great strategy and ended up on the sticker reds in the end and I was able to pass several guys there at the end just using the overtake. I didn't see (the incident between Oriol Servia and Tony Kanaan) because I'd let those guys go a little bit while we were saving to make sure we had enough fuel. I saw some tire smoke as I approached Turn One and was able to split through the middle. Really happy to get another Top Five here for the second year in a row, but we'll make sure we put the work in to make sure we're ready to rock-n-roll next week. If we continue to make gains like we have we'll be running up front with the big boys a lot more often."

E.J. VISO (No. 5 Team Venezuela Andretti Autosport HVM Chevrolet): "A very tough weekend for the team. It was looking like a good weekend for me after our very difficult beginning. It was a very tough Friday, a bit better Saturday in qualifying - we were able to qualify in the top 10 - and then in the race I really had a good, good recovery with some changes for the race which were in the right direction. The team gave me a car that was very competitive with new and old tires. I was able to have a very good rhythm and good pace with fuel. I believe we had a car that was able to win this race. I feel bad for the outcome of the team: one driver took three Andretti cars out - it's a shame. Now to Brazil."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): "Unfortunately it was just another day in a bad weekend for us here. We were taken out by (Tristan) Vautier on Lap 1 which resulted in a flat tire for us. We had to come in for a front wing as well when we pit, and lost a lap. So we missed out on the strategy that got the other guys around us into the top five. I think we had some damage as a result of the accident and we did the best we could with what we had. We also had some issues with our top gear limit and it held us back a bit in the kink from really making a run at anybody."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): "We had a rough race. It could have been a great race for us, we had a lot of opportunity there to score really good points and we ended up just scoring mediocre points. Not a great day. Not a horrible day, but also not a good one. We're not satisfied, probably just excited to go to Brazil now and get another shot." (About last pit stop): "We shot ourselves in the foot on both ends. We came in really late, it would have been perfect, I think we would have just been gifted a very lucky position there, probably would have gone straight to the front and then we had a slow stop, we couldn't get the left rear on, and then I ended up stalling the car. So we had a double foul all around there. I feel bad, we we're already slow in the stop and then I pretty much finished us off with the stall"

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda): "It was a little disappointing result but there were a lot of positives. The No. 83 team did a great job in pit lane. We ran up front. We had the speed and the pace to run consistently up front. We're looking forward to taking what we learned this weekend to the Texas test and Brazil. We have a good pit lane position from qualifying for Brazil. From here, we'll go back to qualifying consistently and staying up front."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet): "Two in a row (not finishing due to contact) - what a kick in the pants. It's really unfortunate because I think the Go Daddy team had done a good job giving us a great race car. If you look at the first stint we performed pretty well; we picked up spots on the start and the first restart. We thought we were taking a bit of a gamble on the black tires there, but I think that might have been a really good strategy call seeing the way that the reds were falling off. We knew we had to protect them the second stint - I was excited to see how that was going to play out for us. A few guys jump us there with pitting a bit early but we were comfortable with the pace of our car. And on the restart… I didn't get the best restart and Tony (Kanaan) had a smokin' one and I was trying to keep, I think it was (Simon) Pagenaud, behind me on the inside and as we got down to Turn 1. I haven't seen a replay so I don't know if Tony was trying to do a last minute pass or if he was getting squeezed by someone else, but he moved in the brake zone and I just had nowhere to go and day done. So really tough break for the Go Daddy guys because I genuinely think we were podium contenders today and it was going to be a good comeback from not the strongest of weekends. But one thing I love about this team is they pull out on Sundays - they do Sunday as well as anybody, and often better, and I think today was going to be one of those days. But we'll get our momentum back and move on to Brazil."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda): "Honestly it was a good points day for us when you look at all the championship contenders who finished behind us. Starting 17th and finishing 7th is really a good day. The strategy my team came up with worked out really well, and the pace of my car was awesome. We were nearly the fastest car on the race track. I'm really happy with the end of the weekend. It's just a shame we weren't able to have a good qualifying session to start higher on the grid because I think I could have run away from the field. We're chipping away at things, and since it's early in the season we still have space to make up points in the championship." - Simon Pagenaud

SIMONA DE SILVESTRO: "I think it was a good recovery from where we started. The car was really fast and the guys did a really awesome job in the pits. When we had clean laps we could move forward and made up some positions, so I think P9 is really good for us. Hopefully next time we can start a little more up front and make life a little bit easier. But, I think it was a great weekend for us.

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): "I think we should have had a better finish today. We had a 10, 11 or 12th place car today. We had a tough first stop, but the car was very good in the middle stint and I did get up to P12. Then later I tried to make a pass on (Sebastien) Bourdais and broke too hard and locked up the right front. The tire was junk after that. So I didn't have the race car that we had in the middle. We are making progress with the Fuzzy's Vodka Chevy but we aren't getting the results right now. The team working well together and I feel good going to Brazil."

MARCO ANDRETTI (RC Cola No. 25 Chevrolet): "Going into this, I knew that this would be about the best we would finish. I am definitely pleased with how we climbed our way through the field and how we stayed consistent throughout the day. We knew that if we just stayed in the race and didn't make any mistakes, we would be good. I had some front wing damage and a lot of understeer the whole race."

TRISTAN VAUTIER (No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "We had an amazing car today, so thanks to the team for that. I made a mistake at the beginning of the race with Scott Dixon, and I'm sorry about that to him and his crew. I got pretty familiar with pit lane after serving my drive thru penalty for the incident, but we got back out on the track and my pace was amazing. We really made the most of the restarts. I think we gained five positions on each of them. It felt great to run up in podium position for awhile. Unfortunately in the pits I got sent out and made contact with Will Power's car. We had some communication issues as a team, but we're all learning to work together and things happen. We win as a team and we lose as a team, and I had my mistakes as well. We had a great race going and it's too bad it ended this way, but we're going to get a good result soon because our speed is there."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing): "We had a good race going and I was set for a fifth-place finish until Servia took me out with half a lap to go. It's really frustrating... I was the leading Chevy car out there and it was looking like a good points race for us. I'm really disappointed on how it turned out."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther DRR Chevrolet): "I had the best car probably of the whole season in the race. It was awesome. On one restart, I don't know what happened to Simon [Pagenaud] but he slowed down in the straight and I broke the front wing but even with that we were one of the fastest cars on track. I was saving fuel but I was flying. I was so happy." (About incident with Kanaan): "With two laps to go, I had a run on Tony (Kanaan). I was on the push to pass, I don't think he saw me coming. I got in his inside and he closed the door. I was there. I cannot disappear. It was one of those deals where you both want the same space in the corner so you crash. I'm angry with him, he's angry with me. That's what happens in racing."

AJ ALLMENDINGER (No. 2 Penske Automotive Chevrolet): "I thought today was going to be a good day for the Penske Automotive Chevrolet, we were posting lap times that were consistent with those up front. Unfortunately we just couldn't get the track position we needed and having the gear box break in Turn 5 ended the day. But it's another step in the learning process and should make us better for Indy."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Auto Club Team Penske Chevrolet): "Tough day for the Auto Club Chevrolet, but my team did a great job getting me back out after our incident with the nose. I was trying to be careful but got bunched up and broke the front wing. At the end of the day the lemon became the lemonade with our finish. We are very happy to come out of here still leading the points and now we have focus on what we need to do to improve."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Frustrating day out there for the Verizon car, we had a car that we thought was good enough to win today. Sato was very strong and he really dominated out there. Obviously we didn't have the start out there that we wanted and broke traction which hurt us. We didn't lose much in the points which is a good thing but certainly we could have had a much better day."

SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet): "Well a lot of things happened today. We started in the middle of the pack and that ended up being our result. The yellows didn't fall at the right time for us and we struggled with two of our pit stops. The last restart I couldn't stay in front of Helio, and that was terminal for us at that point. I am disappointed because the team worked so hard to give me a good car, and should have been in the Top-10."

INDYCAR

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Series INDYCAR
Article type Race reports
Tags allmendinger, andretti, bourdais, castroneves, de silvestro, dixon, franchitti, hildebrand, hinchcliffe, hunter reay, indycar, kanaan, kimball, newgarden, pagenaud, power, rahal, saavedra, sato, vautier, viso, wilson