One year later, Takuma Sato still smiles about Long Beach win (VIDEO)

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One year ago, Takuma Sato delivered a shock victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach that was not only his first in the Verizon IndyCar Series but also the first for his A.J. Foyt Racing team since the 2002 season.

As the series returns to the Beach this weekend, Sato still has fond memories of that great day.

“I remember every single second, right from the beginning of the start,” the ex-Formula One driver said recently. “It was just a beautiful day. Everything came together. We really – how can I say [it]? – controlled the race and controlled ourselves.

“The pit stops were great, and I avoided any risk or involvement that could’ve been an accident or anything. But at the same time, I attacked…This time, it all came together and it was beautiful.”

Sato won the pole for the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago and converted it into a Top-10 result, finishing seventh after leading 33 laps.

Still, Sato wasn’t happy about the result, calling it “a disappointing finish.” Such is a sign of how he and the A.J. Foyt Racing camp have raised their expectations after breaking through one year ago in Long Beach.

You can also hear from another former Long Beach winner, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Josef Newgarden in the IndyCar-produced race preview above.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach begins NBCSN’s coverage of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. Qualifying will air this Saturday evening at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the race LIVE at 4 p.m. ET on both NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for your online or mobile device.

Hamilton hails ‘greatest day’ after USGP victory, Mercedes title win

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Lewis Hamilton made no secret of his jubilation after taking a giant step towards his fourth Formula 1 championship win with victory in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix that also saw Mercedes clinch the constructors’ title.

Hamilton recovered from an early pass by F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel to take his sixth victory on American soil, five of which have come at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, to extend his lead to 66 points.

With just 75 left on offer this season, Hamilton needs just one top-five finish in the final three races to clinch his fourth world title, with the enormity of the victory not being lost on the Mercedes driver.

“Today has been amazing. It’s been the greatest day,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race.

“I woke up a bit tired, felt the rain, then was like, ‘What the hell?’ But I didn’t mind. I won here in the rain in the past. Then it dried up, clear blue skies, amazing opening at the beginning of the GP.

“I lost first place into Turn 1. It was OK. That first section, we got through there, and it felt very reminiscent of 2012: ‘Game on. You have to save the tires’, and he wasn’t doing that. I kind of kept my cool.”

“I saw I got a good exit of Turn 1, this was the lap and it was. His tires were dropping off anyway.”

Hamilton’s victory saw Mercedes wrap up its fourth consecutive F1 constructors’ title with three races to spare, with the Briton having played a key part in each of its successes.

“I’m so proud of this team. Big congratulations to the guys, people don’t know the amount of work they do,” Hamilton said.

“It’s over 1,500 people in two factories, so much brainpower and a lot of people to manage to extract the best from each of those.

“To come into a new era of car and perform as we have. There’s been a newfound love within the team. Ferrari, we want to beat them, thrash them.

“So they put more hours of working in to do that. That’s for all their hard work.”