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article imageIndyCar: Sato becomes first Japanese driver to win IndyCar race

By John Duarte     Apr 22, 2013 in Technology
Long Beach - Takuma Sato not only won his first race in the IZOD IndyCar Series on Sunday, he became the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race.
After winning the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Sato acknowledged the other Japanese drivers who came before him.
“A lot of Japanese drivers started in history, not only me. I’m honoured to be the first one to win, but not because of me, it’s everyone else,” said Sato, who had raced on the Formula 1 circuit prior to joining the IndyCar series. “It’s been three and a half years to get here, but I always believed I can challenge.”
Sato passed defending series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay for second place on Lap 23 and went into the lead seven laps later, when Will Power pitted under yellow-flag conditions. From there on, Sato merely had to stay calm, drive smart and enjoy the ride in a very strong race car.
“I didn’t want to finish the race,” Sato said. “The power was great and I was comfortable in the car and able to push everything.”
The Japanese driver was emotional as he dedicated the win to his native land and the people affected by the 2011 earthquake.
“Japan has had such a tough time after the earthquake,” he said, saluting the country half a world away. “I’m really happy to give everybody some good news to wake up to, because it is very early Japanese time.”
And, yet, Sato said it was almost fate that his first win came in Long Beach.
“(There’s) a lot of Japanese community down here,” he said. “For me, I don’t mind where the place is, but Long Beach seems like the perfect place to get the first win.”
Though happy with his second-place finish, Graham Rahal, son of IndyCar legend Bobby Rahal, joked about his family’s fortunes at Long Beach.
“I think (between) dad and I, five times a Rahal has finished second (here),” he said. “One of these days, we’re going to win one.”
Even more ecstatic was third-place finisher Justin Wilson. An accident during practice on Friday, prevented Wilson from qualifying on Saturday and he had to start from the back of the grid in 25th.
“I figured if we got in the Top 12, Top 10 on the outside chance, that would be a great day,” he said. “To actually be on the podium, that’s a great day.”
Helio Castroneves continues to lead of the drivers’ standings. Sato climbs into second, six points behind the leader, and Scott Dixon sits third, trailing Castroneves by 10 points.
The IZOD IndyCar Series’ schedule resumes on May 5 in Brazil with the São Paulo Indy 300, followed three weeks later by the Indianapolis 500.
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