Race Report: Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 21, 2013—VICTORY! Takuma Sato and A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team sent a resounding message with their dominant performance in the 39th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this afternoon.

“This was one of the greatest days of my racing career,” Sato said.

Their triumph came as a surprise to nearly everyone – everyone except Sato and the historic race team that is directed by A.J.’s son Larry Foyt.

“Today was a fantastic day for us!” Sato said. “The team did a tremendous job this whole weekend. The car was great to drive—it was so much fun to drive! We managed both types of tires, the blacks and the reds, very well, and we were able to conserve fuel when we needed to do so. Everything was under control. I just had to make sure there was no bad luck and no mistakes.”

Sato became the first Japanese driver to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race and in so doing, he ended a winless streak for AJ Foyt Racing that stretched back to 2002 when Brazilian Airton Dare narrowly edged out Sam Hornish Jr. at Kansas Speedway.

Qualifying Report: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 20, 2013—Chemistry is hard to define but when a team has it, people notice. And people are noticing Takuma Sato and A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team as they have been fast from the start of this season. For both driver and team, it is the best start to the IZOD IndyCar Series season in recent memory.

Sato qualified fourth in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach today. It is his second appearance in the Firestone Fast Six qualifying round in three events. And if not for an official’s ruling at the last race at Barber Motorsports Park, Sato would have been three for three in the Fast Six. That feat would have put him in the company of Team Penske drivers Will Power and Helio Castroneves. As the record stands, Sato joins defending IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and rookie Tristan Vautier as drivers to have two Fast Six appearances this season.

“It’s been an interesting day and certainly a good day to be able to get into the Firestone Fast Six and set the fourth quickest lap,” said Sato, whose previous best start on the 11-turn, 1.9 mile street course was sixth [2012]. However, last year he benefited from grid penalties for unapproved engine changes levied to the Chevrolet-powered teams--as did the Foyt team which started seventh with driver Mike Conway.

This time there were no gimmes.

Practice Report: Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif. April 19—Takuma Sato got off to a good start in the ABC Supply Honda Friday as the IZOD IndyCar Series returned to the streets of Long Beach.

In the first practice session, Sato was third quickest, laying down his quick lap on the 11th of 15 with a speed of 101.185mph. The second session was stopped by three red flags for separate incidents involving Sebastian Saavedra, Justin Wilson and Simona DeSilvestro, and Scott Dixon. Sato managed to get in just six laps in the second session. A gearbox problem surfaced towards the end of that session cutting short Sato’s day. His best lap of 101.328mph was good for ninth on the speed charts.

“Unfortunately it was a short day of work for the ABC Supply team,” Sato said. “The car felt pretty good right away. Red flags interrupted the morning session [once] and the afternoon session [three times] which is a shame because we wanted to try a couple things and we couldn’t go through the test. We had to stop early in the last session because of a mechanical issue so it wasn’t very productive. However, we will concentrate on what we need to test tomorrow morning, get through that program and be ready for qualifying in the afternoon.”

Indy 500 rookie Conor Daly flew in to Long Beach to get his seat made for the No. 41 ABC Supply Honda car that he will drive in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Daly will be in the AJ Foyt Racing pit throughout the weekend.

Ryan Hunter Reay set quick time with a lap speed of 102.054 mph. Second through fifth were Mike Conway, Will Power, Tristan Vautier and Helio Castroneves.

Sato has a 45 minute morning practice to get his car sorted out before qualifying for the Long Beach Grand Prix begins at 2p.m. local time. The qualifying show will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network Saturday afternoon starting at 3 p.m. local time and 6 p.m. ET.

Notes & Quotes: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

Takuma Sato and the ABC Supply team are in their first season together. Sato is making his fourth appearance in the Long Beach Grand Prix. In the 2012 event, Sato finished 8th after starting 6th.  Following his 14th place finish at Barber Motorsports Park, he is 12th in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.

Takuma Sato on why the Long Beach Grand Prix is so popular: “I think it's because it’s a gorgeous venue. It has such a great atmosphere with an energetic city and of course it's got the long racing history.”

Sato on key factors for success at Long Beach: “You need pretty much everything basically.  A fast car, of course, but putting more weight on mechanical grip rather than aero, plus a strong fuel consumption, which was key last year, and a fast driver as always, and the right call on strategy.”

Sato on what makes Long Beach’s track distinctive: “It has a roundabout at the middle of the track! Also, the surface is quite slippery with relatively low grip and it has the tightest hairpin in the series.”

Sato on what he looks for during the Track Walk with his engineers: “A good chatting time. Seriously, we look at the bumps, any changes at the corners so that I can explain to the engineers how the car reacts and feels. That way they can imagine the car movement in addition to what they can see from the data -- and that will always help to improve the setups.”

Last year at Long Beach: Sato started sixth and finished eighth, while AJ Foyt Racing’s driver Mike Conway started 7th and finished 22nd due to mechanical problems.