Sato looks for a St. Pete encore and/or Long Beach repeat on Sunday

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Two years ago, Takuma Sato delivered one of the most popular victories in recent Verizon IndyCar Series history.

Sato broke through for his first career win on the streets of Long Beach in a dominant effort, and broke an 11-plus year winless drought for A.J. Foyt Enterprises in doing so.

Though he hasn’t won since, Sato and the rest of his No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda crew were the class of the Honda field on the series’ last street course in St. Petersburg.

After a down weekend in NOLA Motorsports Park last weekend, Sato expects the St. Pete form to return this weekend in Long Beach.

“I think we can carry it over,” Sato told MotorSportsTalk during Thursday’s media luncheon ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

“We’re coming off a different circumstance … NOLA was a little different environment. The St. Petersburg performance could translate well here. It’s a street course, it’s a little similar, and hopefully we’ll be strong again.”

This race will mark the first street race since INDYCAR introduced manufacturer aero kit upgrades to improve structural rigidity, following the debris-strewn race at St. Petersburg.

Sato put a lot of that action down to the fact it was the first race of the year, more than specifically blaming the kits for the onslaught of debris cautions.

“We were out of racing for half a year,” Sato said. “If anything, the first race is always exciting. It wasn’t massive contact for anyone.

“It was just a matter of new racing again, with learning the aero kits, and with more carbon fiber parts. Naturally if you had contact, there was debris. Hopefully there won’t be as much here.”

With Mike Conway out of the field, Sato is again the most recent Long Beach winner actually in the field this weekend, as he was last year when he reminisced about it.

He said it remains one of his career’s most special memories and he’d love to repeat.

It’s a possibility, for sure, heading into Sunday. Much will depend on how well he and teammate Jack Hawksworth will roll off the transporters ahead of first practice on Friday.