For the first 10 seasons of his career, Takuma Sato went winless in professional open-wheel racing. His biggest claim to fame to that point was a failed attempt to take the lead from Dario Franchitti on the last lap of the 2012 Indy 500.
But that changed on April 21, 2013, as Sato won the Grand Prix of Long Beach to become the first Japanese winner in professional motorsports.
Sato started the 39th edition of the race from fourth and took the lead on Lap 31 for good. He led the final 50 laps and won by 5.3 seconds ahead of Graham Rahal.
Aside from being the first victory for Sato in IndyCar competition, it was the first victory for A.J. Racing in more than 10 years. Foyt’s last victory came at Kanas Speedway on July 7, 2002 with Airton Dare behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, Foyt was not in attendance that weekend as he was at his ranch in Texas preparing for a surgery on his sciatic nerve, but that did not stop the team from celebrating.
Upon entering Victory Lane, Sato himself waved the Japanese flag and leaped into the arms of a crewman as confetti flew all around him.
“I can’t find the words,” Sato told NBCSN. “The boys have done a tremendous job. The car was great. Pit stops were perfect. Great calls. Just an incredible feeling. … This is just amazing. I’m really happy with the team. Thank you to all our sponsors and A.J. for such a fantastic opportunity.”
Also on this date:
1985: Ayrton Senna won the Grand Prix of Portugal, his first victory in Formula One. Senna became one of the greatest drivers in F1 history, with 41 victories and three World Championships (1988, 1990-91). before a fatal crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
2007: Tony Kanaan took the lead with five laps remaining in the Indy Japan 300 and held off Dan Wheldon to claim his first of five victories that season.