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IndyCar Series

Sato returns to site of first IndyCar win

Long Beach, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Takuma Sato has been looking forward to the Verizon IndyCar Series' annual trip to Long Beach for quite some time.

Last year in his first season with A.J. Foyt Racing, Sato scored his maiden victory in the series on the streets of Long Beach. He became the first Japanese-born driver to win an IndyCar race.

Starting fourth, Sato overtook Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2012 IndyCar champion, for second on lap 23 and then grabbed the lead seven laps later when then leader Will Power made his pit stop. Sato dominated the remainder of the 80- lap race. He held off Graham Rahal before a caution came on the penultimate lap for an incident involving Tony Kanaan. The race ended under caution.

"It was a very special day for me, so going back there, I feel good and confident," Sato said. "We should be able to show a strong performance again."

The 2014 season began two weeks ago in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sato started on the pole and finished seventh there. He led a total of 33 laps.

Long Beach, a 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit, has hosted an open-wheel race for the past 30 years. From 1984-2003, this event was sanctioned by CART and then Champ Car from 2004-08. IndyCar has sanctioned it since 2009.

Sebastien Bourdais is the last driver to win back-to-back races at Long Beach, doing so from 2005-06. Al Unser Jr. scored four consecutive victories here from 1988-91 and then two in a row from 1994-95. Mario Andretti (1984-85), Alex Zanardi (1997-98) and Paul Tracy (2003-04) have also won at this track in consecutive years.

Can Sato be the next driver to do it?

"It will always be tough to win this race -- everything has to be perfect -- but why not?" he said. "We will certainly try our best and aim to win."

Will Power from Team Penske enters this race with a lot of momentum. Power started this season the same way he concluded the 2013 season -- winning races.

With Verizon as his team's sponsor as well as the new title sponsor of IndyCar this year, Power led 74 of 110 laps to win the St. Pete race. He ended the '13 season with victories in Houston and Fontana, Calif.

Power is a two-time race winner at Long Beach. He won here in 2008 (last-ever Champ Car race) and '12.

"It was an awesome feeling to win the first race of the Verizon IndyCar Series," Power said. "Now I want to win the first two races of the season. Long Beach is a ton of fun - a tough street circuit and a great place to showcase our sport. I've been fortunate to win there twice in my career. A third win would be huge for us there with all the history and prestige that is part of Long Beach."

Twenty-three teams are on the entry list for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Series: Verizon IndyCar. Date: Sunday, April 13. Race: Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Site: Streets of Long Beach. Track: 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street circuit. Start Time: 4:50 p.m. ET. Laps: 80. Miles: 157.4. 2013 Winner: Takuma Sato. Television: NBC Sports Network. Radio: IMS Radio Network/SIRIUS XM Satellite.

04/11 16:01:07 ET

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