Updated: 04/22/2013 10:24 | By Agence France-Presse

Sato first Japanese to win IndyCar race

Takuma Sato grabbed a slice of IndyCar history, becoming the first Japanese driver to win a race in the US open-wheel series, at the Long Beach Grand Prix.


Sato first Japanese to win IndyCar race

Takuma Sato celebrates becoming the first Japanese driver to win a race in the US open-wheel series, on April 21, 2013, delivering a dominant performance to take the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Sato drives the No. 14 car for A.J. Foyt Racing.

"This is just amazing," Sato said after leading 50 of 80 laps and piloting the No. 14 car for A.J. Foyt racing across the line ahead of Graham Rahal.

"It was just a perfect weekend to be honest," he added. "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."

Sato was making his 52nd IndyCar start and his previous best finish was second at Edmonton in 2012.

He was driving for Rahal Letterman in that race in Edmonton, in the car that Graham Rahal now drives.

The driver from Tokyo competed in Formula One for seven years before he moved over to IndyCar in 2010.

"It is great news for the Japanese," Sato said of his IndyCar win. "Japan has had such a tough time after the earthquake (March 2011). I'm really happy to give everybody some good news to wake up to because it's very early Japanese time."

He had nearly pulled off an upset in the 2012 Indianapolis 500 when he battled Dario Franchitti for the lead and the win on the final lap.

Both drivers made contact, with Sato slamming into the outside wall. He finished 17th, while Franchitti won the Indy 500 for the second time.

There were no mistakes from Sato on Sunday.

He started from fourth on the grid and overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay for second place on lap 23.

He assumed the lead on lap 30, when race leader Will Power of Australia pitted under a caution.

From there, Sato held off all challengers and led Rahal across the finish line under caution after Brazil's Tony Kanaan slid into a tyre barrier on the first turn of the 79th lap.

England's Justin Wilson finished third -- after starting 24th.

Franchitti, who started from pole, and J.R. Hildebrand, rounded out the top-five.

"Takuma made it look too easy," said team director and race strategist Larry Foyt. "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. It just all came together."

Sato became the third different driver to win in as many races this season, joining Canadian James Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay.

He moved into second place in the championship standings, six points behind Brazilian Helio Castroneves.

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