Motorsports roundup: Sato first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race

Posted Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race on Sunday in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

The win came in Sato’s 52nd career start, and was the first for A.J. Foyt Racing since Airton Dare won Kansas in 2002. Only the Texan wasn’t on hand to make his first-ever trip to Long Beach’s Victory Lane — a sciatic nerve that will require surgery forced him to watch the race on television at home.

The victory on the temporary street course through Long Beach — where Foyt never won as a driver or team owner — was a huge accomplishment for the organization. A.J. Foyt Racing’s last win on a street or road course was with Foyt behind the wheel at Silverstone in 1978.

“It was an easy win,” said the diminutive Sato, who leapt into the arms of his crew members in Victory Lane. “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.”

From Texas, Foyt said via telephone the “last five laps were the longest five laps of anything.

“We’ve had a lot of drivers, but none of them wanted to win,” Foyt said, “this boy wants to win.”

His son, Larry Foyt, runs the day-to-day operations of the team and said he hated his dad not being at the track for the win.

“We hate it because he is definitely our big leader and he is the big boss man,” Larry Foyt said. “This is for him.”

Foyt is scheduled to have surgery Wednesday in Texas, but said he’s pushing to have it moved up at Tuesday because he wants to shorten his recovery period.

“I just can’t walk very far and I want to get this healed up because I am definitely going to be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Foyt said.

The win pushed Sato to second in the IndyCar standings, and was redemption for the Honda driver. Probably best known for crashing on the final lap of last year’s Indianapolis 500 while driving for Bobby Rahal, Sato also suffered disappointment two races earlier when he was headed to a podium finish at Long Beach and Ryan Hunter-Reay spun him on the final lap.

On Sunday, he held off Graham Rahal, who took his seat at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for the win. Although the second-place finish was a huge turnaround for Rahal, who did not fare well in his first two races driving for his father’s team, it was a typical Rahal result. Bobby Rahal finished second as a driver at Long Beach four times, in 1988, and from 1991 through 1993.

“I think we just performed the way we ought to each and every weekend,” Rahal said. “To be honest, it just feels phenomenal to get this result. God, I came so close to winning yet again.”

Justin Wilson, who started 24th because he never got a qualifying run in on Saturday, drove all the way to third and pole-sitter Dario Franchitti was fourth in his 250th career start. It marked a sweep of the top four spots for Honda, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season and had been shut out by Chevrolet in the first two races of the year.

Vettel cruises

Three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel won the Bahrain Grand Prix, easily beating Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in a race that has been the target of rights groups and anti-government protesters in the divided nation.

After taking the lead for good on the 17th lap, the Red Bull driver was never challenged. Raikkonen closed the gap in the final five laps but ran out of time. Grosjean passed Force India’s Paul di Resta for third for his best finish this season.

Vettel retains the championship lead after four of 19 races, with his advantage over Raikkonen now 10 points.

The race has been the target of rights groups that contend it glosses over the country’s political problems while anti-government protesters intensified their demonstrations against the Sunni-led government.

Briefly

• MotoGP: Rookie Marc Marquez won a MotoGP race for the first time, capturing the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin to become the youngest winner at motorcycle racing’s top level. The 20-year-old Spaniard, last season’s Moto2 champion, stood on the bike and waved to the crowd after the finish. Marquez had qualified in pole position but lost the lead to Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa seconds into the race. They dueled for the top spot the rest of the way. Marquez overtook Pedrosa with nine laps to go and held on to win in 43 minutes, 42.123 seconds. Pedrosa finished second, 1.534 seconds behind. Marquez replaces American “Fast Freddie” Spencer as MotoGP’s youngest premier level winner. Spencer also was 20 when he won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1982.

• NHRA: Matt Hagan ended a 17-month winless drought by racing to the Funny Car victory at the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C. Hagan powered his Dodge Charger to the final round win over fellow Virginian Blake Alexander, veteran driver Tim Wilkerson, and rookie Chad Head for his sixth career victory. Hagan covered the distance in 4.071 seconds at 315.34 mph to beat Alexander’s Charger in the four-wide final. Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the only NHRA event that features competition in four lanes.

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Saturday, April 19Full Scoreboard
Toronto2Bottom 1st | Box
Cleveland0@theBallpark | TV: SNET, STO
St. Louis0Top 2nd | Box
Washington0@theBallpark | TV: FSN-MW, WUSA 9, MASN
LA Angels1Bottom 1st | Box
Detroit0@theBallpark | TV: FS1
Baltimore 4/19 1:35 PM ET
Boston TV: MASN, WJZ, NESN
Minnesota 4/19 2:10 PM ET
Kansas City TV: FSN-N, FSN-KC
Cincinnati 4/19 2:20 PM ET
Chicago Cubs TV: FSN-OH, CSN-CHI
Houston 4/19 4:05 PM ET
Oakland TV: MLB N, CSN-HOU, CSN-CA
Milwaukee 4/19 7:05 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: FSN-WI, ROOT-PIT
Seattle 4/19 7:10 PM ET
Miami TV: ROOT-NW, FSN-FL
Atlanta 4/19 7:10 PM ET
NY Mets TV: FSN-S, WPIX
NY Yankees 4/19 7:10 PM ET
Tampa Bay TV: YES, Sun Sports
Chicago WSox 4/19 8:05 PM ET
Texas TV: WGN, FSN-SW
Philadelphia 4/19 8:10 PM ET
Colorado TV: CSN-PHI, ROOT-RM
Arizona 4/19 8:10 PM ET
Los Angeles TV: FS1, SportsNet LA
San Francisco 4/19 8:40 PM ET
San Diego TV: CSN-BA, FSN-SD
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Saturday, April 19Full Scoreboard
Brooklyn352nd Qtr 9:11 | Box
Toronto30TV: ESPN, YES, TSN
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
Golden State 4/19 3:30 PM ET
LA Clippers TV: ABC
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
Atlanta 4/19 7:00 PM ET
Indiana TV: ESPN, SportSouth
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
Memphis 4/19 9:30 PM ET
Oklahoma City TV: ESPN, FSN-OK
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game One.
Full Scoreboard
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No games this week
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Saturday, April 19Full Scoreboard
Chicago 4/19 3:00 PM ET
St. Louis TV: NBC, CBC, RDS
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. St. Louis leads series, 1-0.
Columbus 4/19 7:00 PM ET
Pittsburgh TV: NBCSN, CBC, FSN-OH, ROOT
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Pittsburgh leads series, 1-0.
Minnesota 4/19 9:30 PM ET
Colorado TV: NBCSN, TSN, Altitude
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Two. Colorado leads series, 1-0.
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