Takuma Sato captures Grand Prix of Long Beach to become first Japanese driver to win in IndyCar

Jeff Gross

Up until Sunday afternoon, Takuma Sato's claim to fame was perhaps his failed attempt to pass Dario Franchitti on the last lap of the 2012 Indianapolis 500. Now he's known for something far greater -- winner of the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after holding off Graham Rahal in the closing laps of Sunday's race.

The victory marks Sato's first in IndyCar and comes in his 52nd IZOD IndyCar Series start. He is the first Japanese driver to win in major league Indy car racing.

"It was just a perfect weekend to be honest," Sato said. "The team did a tremendous job; Pit stops, the right calls, the power was great and I was comfortable in the car and able to push everything."

Sato started the race in fifth and was rarely removed from the front of the field. Where faulty pit stops had plagued strong runs in the first two races, the A.J. Foyt Racing Team was flawless on Sunday, a fact not lost on their driver.

"It was Super job. Super job," Sato said. "We had a pit issue the last two races, but today is just amazing the whole crew did a tremendous job."

Team owner and IndyCar legend A.J. Foyt was not at the race and missed his team's first victory since Airton Dare's 2002 breakthrough at Kansas Speedway. But team manager Larry Foyt is proud to bring a victory back home and couldn't praise his driver enough following the victory.

"Takuma made it look too easy out there," Foyt said. "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 had a great set up.

"And what a pit crew -- those guys were fast today. And it just all came together. We've been saying that. We've had flashes of being really quick and we just had to bring it all together. And we did that today."

The victory was perhaps even sweeter for Sato as he defeated the Rahal Lanigan Team that he drove for in 2012. Graham Rahal joined his father's operation during the off-season, forcing Sato to explore other options. He ultimately settled at Foyt and has now struck the first blow.

Justin Wilson, Dario Franchitti and JR Hildebrand completed the top-five. The victory is also the first for Honda in 2013 and breaks a two-race victory streak by both Chevrolet and Andretti Autosport.

The complete results can be found below:

  1. Takuma Sato
  2. Graham Rahal
  3. Justin Wilson
  4. Dario Franchitti
  5. JR Hildebrand
  6. Oriol Servia
  7. Marco Andretti
  8. Simon Pagenaud
  9. Simona de Silvestro
  10. Helio Castroneves
  11. Scott Dixon
  12. James Jakes
  13. Josef Newgarden
  14. Ana Beatriz
  15. Sebastien Bourdais
  16. Will Power
  17. Tristan Vautier
  18. Ed Carpenter
  19. Alex Tagliani
  20. Tony Kanaan
  21. Charlie Kimball
  22. EJ Viso
  23. AJ Allmendinger
  24. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  25. Mike Conway
  26. James Hinchcliffe
  27. Sebastian Saavedra

More from SB Nation IndyCar:

Graham Rahal scores first podium for family team

Justin Wilson third after starting in the back at Long Beach

Helio Castroneves escapes crash-filled Long Beach with points lead

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