LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The new era of A.J. Foyt Racing is here.
Takuma Sato delivered the team's first Izod IndyCar Series victory since 2002 by winning Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Sato also became the first Japanese driver to win a race in the series. It was his 52nd start. He nearly won last year's Indianapolis 500, but he crashed trying to pass Dario Franchitti on the final lap.
The 36-year-old raised his No. 1 finger to the crowd as he celebrated.
"It was almost a perfect race," Sato said. "It was easy, really."
Sunday's victory came without A.J. Foyt at the track. Racing's legendary driver-turned-owner is facing back surgery Wednesday morning; the ABC Supply-sponsored team has been led in recent years by his son, Larry.
The Foyt team's last victory came in 2002 by Airton Dare at Kansas Speedway.
A.J. Foyt, who watched the race from his home west of Houston, reminded Larry Foyt of that when they talked on the telephone after the race.
"The last five laps were the longest of anything," A.J. Foyt said by telephone. "We've had a lot of drivers, but none of them wanted to win. This boy wants to win."
Larry Foyt said of his father, "He was surprisingly calm. He said everyone did a good job, and this would make (having surgery) easier."
Graham Rahal finished second for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and Justin Wilson third for Dale Coyne Racing. It is believed to be the first time in at least five years that no member of the Penske, Ganassi and Andretti teams finished in the top three.
"Look, I left Ganassi Racing (after last season), and I left for a reason," Rahal said. "I knew this team could be competitive. We're just starting."
Wilson said the 1-2-3 finish for the Foyt, Rahal and Coyne teams was a sign that anyone can be competitive in the series.
"I think we could see more of this," he said.
The race got off clean, but there was trouble quickly thereafter.
Scott Dixon, who started 26th due to a penalty for causing a caution in qualifying, took a hit from behind from rookie Tristan Vautier, who was penalized for avoidable contact. Vautier had started last due to an unapproved engine change.
The third lap saw Sebastian Saavedra fail to get around Turn 9 in an overtaking attempt of Simona De Silvestro. Saavedra slammed the tire barrier as De Silvestro slid through unscathed. It was the end to a difficult weekend for the Colombian, who after driving through a corner in practice, spun while accelerating and hit the wall.
There was contact throughout the field, all over the track, but one of the biggest was between Charlie Kimball and Alex Tagliani. They were side-by-side heading to a couple of corners that set up their crash on Lap 31.
On the restart, Tony Kanaan's good jump put him ahead of James Hinchcliffe approaching Turn 1. As Kanaan turned in, Hinchcliffe hit him, setting off a chain reaction that saw Hinchcliffe's car collect Andretti Autosport teammate EJ Viso. Both were effectively eliminated, the second time in as many races for Hinchcliffe, who won the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The third Andretti car in the barrier was Ryan Hunter-Reay, the reigning series champion. He overshot the corner trying to swing around Ana Beatriz, who got through without incident.
During the pit stops that followed, Will Power got clipped by Vautier as Power tried to enter his pit box. The contact was caused by Vautier's crew releasing him prematurely. That dropped Vautier from third to 16th.
Title contenders were largely in the back of the field. Power finished 15th with Hunter-Reay 24th and Hinchcliffe 26th out of 27.
Dario Franchitti rebounded from finishing 25th in the season's first two races to win the pole and finish fourth. Dixon managed to get to 10th by the end of the race.
Three of Michael Andretti's cars crashed. Marco Andretti was the team's top finisher in sixth.