For the first time in 11 years, AJ Foyt Racing went to victory lane on Sunday. It was the first career win for Takuma Sato, who put on an incredible performance. This wasn’t just any ordinary race either; it’s Long Beach, the most prestigious street race in America. The legendary owner wasn’t there to celebrate with the team though, as he prepares for surgery to fix a nerve issue.
Sato becomes the first Japanese driver to ever win a race in the series. He took the lead just before the halfway point when a caution flag came out for an incident between Kimball and Tagliani. His team had a lightning fast pit stop, and that coupled with Franchitti’s slow stop, gave him the lead for the next restart.
The restart didn’t look good from the beginning, and it wasn’t going to get any better. Kanaan, Power, and Hinchcliffe tried to go three-wide into turn one, which obviously doesn’t work. Hinchcliffe hit the inside wall going into the turn, and took out his teammate Viso in the process. After winning the opening race of the season, it has been a rough stretch for James, who hasn’t finished in either of the past two races.
Rahal rebounded nicely with a second place finish. Wilson climbed 21 positions on the day to join them on the podium. Franchitti and Hildebrand rounded out the top five. All five of these drivers desperately needed a good finish, and got one. This was the first time since the merger that the series had a podium without a Penske, Ganassi, or Andretti owned car.
It was another rough trip to Long Beach for Dixon. It started with a crash in practice on Friday, then a spin in qualifying on Saturday that put him in the back of the field. He got run over by Vautier on the second lap of the race, which cut his tire. He fought back all day and was able to salvage a decent finish. Dixon’s finishes from the last 7 races at Long Beach are 19th, 18th, 15th, 4th, 18th, 23rd, and 11th on Sunday.
All in all, it was a great points day for Dario. Not only did he finish fourth, but the three guys finishing ahead of him were not major contenders in the standings. Couple that with bad days for Hinchcliffe, Dixon, Castroneves, Hunter-Reay, and Power, and he can head to Sao Paulo smiling. Castroneves retains the points lead heading into Brazil. He has an 6 point lead over Sato, and an 10 point edge over Dixon. Andretti and Wilson are 4th and 5th.
The next race on the schedule is the Sao Paulo Indy 300 from Brazil. The race will air on NBC Sports Network at 11 am ET on May 5. Opening weekend for the Indianapolis 500 is May 11.