IndyCar-Turning Laps With Ease: Sato Takes Long Beach

After many near misses, Takuma Sato finally took his maiden victory in the IZOD IndyCar Series on the Streets of Long Beach this past Sunday, holding off Graham Rahal in his best result to date for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Justin Wilson captured his first podium of the season in Third Position for Dale Coyne Racing. The win is AJ Foyt Enterprises’ first win since Airton Dare finished first at Kansas Speedway on July 7, 2002. The last Road/Street course victory for the team came at the Silverstone Circuit in England back on October 1, 1978. Helio Castroneves leaves Long Beach with his points lead intact, however Takuma Sato now sits second in the points battle.

The Summary
Round Three of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series began under sunny skies with temperatures in the mid 60′s. By all accounts, it was a beautiful day for racing under the Southern California skies. The only bit of prerace issues to report was the #55 Schmidt Peterson Racing entry of Tristan Vautier was given a 10 grid spot penalty for an unapproved engine change.

The green flag is thrown, and we are underway in Long Beach. on Lap 1, Scott Dixon spins and cuts down a tire after contact with Vautier in Turn 6. Dixon is able to return to the pits under his own power, however Vautier would receive a drive through penalty for avoidable contact. Meanwhile, his teammate, Dario Franchitti, has fully grasped the lead and is pulling away from the field. Dario’s sprint would be short lived as the first full course yellow of the day came out on Lap 2 for Sebastian Saavedra’s rather hard impact at the Exit of Turn 9. Saavedra was able to climb from the car under his own power and was later cleared by the Infield Care Center.

We are back under green on Lap 7, as Dario and Ryan Hunter-Reay battle each other for the lead, with Franchitti ultimately holding the position. Dario maintains the lead until Lap 29, when he has to come in for tires and fuel. meanwhile, Full Course Yellow comes out again on Lap 30 for contact between Alex Tagliani and Charlie Kimball in the tire barrier at Turn 8. Will Power would assume the lead for several laps under yellow until his own pit stop on Lap 31 hands the lead to Takuma Sato.

The Green Flag comes back out on Lap 35. As Sato leads the group into Turn 1, there’s contact between James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan. A rather steamed Hinch would later say he felt like Kanaan didn’t give him enough room in Turn 1, but he also felt it was an unfortunate racing incident. Unfortunately for Andretti Autosport, Hinch’s car would also collect E.J. Viso, who had to return to the pits for a new nose. Ryan Hunter-Reay also returns to the pits for some minor damage repairs. the Green Flag comes back out on Lap 39, and Sato begins to see his lead over Graham Rahal evaporate. By Lap 47, Sato has seen his 3.5 second lead dwindle down to 1.5 seconds. If Taku is going to hold the lead, he needs a serious break.

That break would come on Lap 50, as Ryan Hunter-Reay stuffs the #1 DHL/Sun Drop Chevrolet into the tire barriers at Turn 8. RHR later said it was a simple racing error. He was trying hard to make something happen, but simply overcooked it in the turn. meanwhile, all the leaders come into the pits for their final stop. Sato wins the drag race over Rahal, Franchitti and Wilson. Tristan Vautier was in the lead group as well, but was launched too soon from his pit box and made contact with Will Power in the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Vautier would receive yet another penalty, this time for early release, and effectively end his weekend. On Lap 52, A.J. Allmendinger would pull off in Turn 5.

Green returns at Lap 56. This time, Sato is able to pull away from Rahal, building up a lead of 4.3 seconds by Lap 74. Caution would return to the Streets of Long Beach on Lap 79 for contact between Tony Kanaan and Oriol Servia. Servia would be penalized for avoidable contact, but later have the penalty rescinded after review. In an almost unprecedented turn of events, the Panther/DRR team would win both penalty appeals over the course of the race weekend.

After coming oh so close several times, Takuma Sato crossed the finish line on lap 80 under Yellow and Checkers to take his very first IZOD IndyCar Series victory. Graham Rahal finished second, Justin Wilson in third.

The Stories
the first obvious story has to be Sato’s first IndyCar win. He’s had second place finishes. He made the bold move on Dario at last year’s 500. He’s led laps and qualified well, but never been able to seal the deal. Now, Taku has that monkey off his back. A very popular win amongst the paddock, Sato’s win marks two first time winners in three races this year.

Another thing Taku’s win marks is the red cars going 0-3 this season. That’s right, no wins so far this season for the Penske or Ganassi cars. Some people think that maybe they’ve hit difficult times. I’d argue that it’s simply a matter of everyone else getting better. there hasn’t been a field this deep since the early 90′s. Quality wise, the IZOD IndyCar Series is headed in the right direction. Now, if the sponsorship dollars would only follow.

Tristan Vautier had a rough weekend. he had engine issues in  qualifying, so for the first time this season, he failed to make the Firestone Fast Six. Then in the race, he had contact on Lap 1 with Scott Dixon, drawing the ire of Race Control and a drive through penalty. Tristan would work his way back up to battle with the Top Five, only to get another penalty on the last round of pit stops when his team launched him too soon, and into the side of Will Power.

Graham Rahal finally got things back on track. He’d had lackluster runs at both St. Pete and Barber. is he finally meshing with the crew at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, or are the technical woes over? Graham’s been snakebit with electrical issues all season. It’s good to see things finally come together for him with a good finish.

Speaking of getting things back together, Dario Franchitti finally had a quality weekend. Coming into the weekend dead last in points, Dario really needed to turn things around. He started by winning pole, followed up by leading much of the early race, and closed the deal with a solid 4th Place finish. For those of you who thought Dario had lost it, well, he’s back!

What about Justin Wilson! he was eliminated from qualifying because part of his wrap wasn’t on the plane of the rear wing. Yeah, that’s right…The vehicle wrap is considered a mandatory part of the car, and has to be on for the car to pass tech inspection. As a result, Justin started the race in 24th position. He battled his way all the way up to a podium finish.

In a quick note, I’d also like to point out; Ed Carpenter finished on the lead lap.

The Words
TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing Honda, winner Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach): “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. (About pit stops): “Super job. Super job. We had a pit issue the last two races, but today is just amazing the whole crew did a tremendous job.” (What win will mean in Japan): “It great news for the Japanese. Japan has had such a tough time after the earthquake. I’m really happy to give everybody some good news to wake up to because it’s very early Japanese time.

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Midas/Big O Tires Honda): “I think we just performed the way we ought to each and every weekend. We came out here and the Midas/Big O Tires car was right there all week. Qualifying was a little bit disappointing to be 11th but we were in the top-five in almost every session. I felt going into the race that is exactly what we could do there.   To be honest is just feels phenomenal to get this result. God I came so close to winning yet again. On the last restart if (Charlie) Kimball weren’t in the way we would have had a great run at it. And clearly he overshot himself into (Turn) 1. Man it felt so good to be on the podium here.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “It was a little bit of luck, circumstances and the team did a great job on strategy. We pitted on Lap 5 or 6. Came in and put the reds on. We had plenty of reds because we didn’t qualify. We just went out there and pushed hard the entire race. I think that helped having an extra set, being able to pick a few people off. It’s great to get this result for the Boy Scouts of America and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing. They’ve worked hard to put the car back together on Friday so I have to thank them. It’s also good for Honda here at Long Beach to get 1-2-3-4. I think it’s fantastic.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “Not ideal we lost, you know we lost a couple of spots in the pits and then we lost another one there on the restart with Charlie being a lap down and I don’t know what the hell he was doing. With a crash right in front of us, I had to lift to avoid it. And Justin got by after that and the guys in the front were pretty evenly matched after that, as Justin and I were. And I couldn’t get close enough to make a move and then I had to start watching my fuel. Yea, you know not another great day for the Target team, but after the first two results this is a lot better. We’re getting there, we’re getting there.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda): “We had a rough race. It could have been a great race for us, we had a lot of opportunity there to score really good points and we ended up just scoring mediocre points. Not a great day. Not a horrible day, but also not a good one. We’re not satisfied, probably just excited to go to Brazil now and get another shot.” (About last pit stop): “We shot ourselves in the foot on both ends. We came in really late, it would have been perfect, I think we would have just been gifted a very lucky position there, probably would have gone straight to the front and then we had a slow stop, we couldn’t get the left rear on, and then I ended up stalling the car. So we had a double foul all around there. I feel bad, we we’re already slow in the stop and then I pretty much finished us off with the stall”

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing): “We had a good race going and I was set for a fifth-place finish until Servia took me out with half a lap to go. It’s really frustrating… I was the leading Chevy car out there and it was looking like a good points race for us. I’m really disappointed on how it turned out.”

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 22 Panther DRR Chevrolet): “I had the best car probably of the whole season in the race. It was awesome. On one restart, I don’t know what happened to Simon [Pagenaud] but he slowed down in the straight and I broke the front wing but even with that we were one of the fastest cars on track. I was saving fuel but I was flying. I was so happy.” (About incident with Kanaan): “With two laps to go, I had a run on Tony (Kanaan). I was on the push to pass, I don’t think he saw me coming. I got in his inside and he closed the door. I was there. I cannot disappear. It was one of those deals where you both want the same space in the corner so you crash. I’m angry with him, he’s angry with me. That’s what happens in racing.”

The Results

1. (4) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
2. (11) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
3. (24) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
4. (1) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
5. (12) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
6. (18) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
7. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
8. (17) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
9. (19) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
10. (6) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
11. (26) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
12. (13) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
13. (16) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
14. (22) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
15. (15) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
16. (3) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
17. (27) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 80, Running
18. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 80, Running
19. (21) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 79, Running
20. (8) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 78, Contact                                                                                                                                 
21. (9) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 78, Running
. (10) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 53, Running
23. (14) AJ Allmendinger, Dallara-Chevy, 51, Mechanical                                                  
24. (2) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 49, Contact                                                     
25. (5) Mike Conway, Dallara-Honda, 38, Electrical                                                                                
26. (7) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 34, Contact                                                                                                                 
27. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 1, Contact                                                                                                                                               
Race Statistics
Winners average speed:   85.763
Time of Race: 01:50:08.7155
Margin of victory: Under caution
Cautions: 5 for 16 laps
Lead changes: 4 among 4 drivers
Lap Leaders:
Franchitti 1 – 6
Hunter-Reay 7
Franchitti 8 – 28
Power 29 – 30
Sato 31 – 80
Point Standings: Castroneves 99, Sato 93, Dixon 89, Andretti 87, Wilson 81, Hunter-Reay 73, Rahal 66, Power 62, de Silvestro 62, Hinchcliffe 61.

 

 

One comment

  • Graham Rahal raced from eleventh to second yet continues to blame others for misfortune.
    Justin Wilson, also in a Honda-powered DW12, raced from twenty-fourth to third (with attrition ahead), but he didn’t complain about others. ~ fast and gracious, as usual ~
    ~ kudos to Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson ~