TOKYO (AP) — Takuma Sato says joining AJ Foyt Racing put him in position to become the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race.
Sato returned to Japan on Friday to speak about his historic win last Sunday in the Grand Prix of Long Beach, just his third race with the team.
"Motorsports is a team sport and you can't win without complete effort from the team," Sato said at a news conference. "The thing about AJ Foyt Racing is that regardless of the conditions they provide the stability needed to win."
The win at Long Beach came in Sato's 52nd career start in IndyCar, but was the first for AJ Foyt Racing since Airton Dare won Kansas in 2002.
On the last lap of last year's Indianapolis 500, Sato wrecked while trying to pass winner Dario Francitti.
"Of course, being so close to the win at Indy and not getting it was difficult but being able to contend up until the last lap gave me a lot of confidence," Sato said.
Sato entered Formula One in 2002 but his only podium was when he finished third at the United States Grand Prix in 2003.
He signed with KV Racing Technology to drive in the 2010 IndyCar Series and finished 21st then 13th in 2011. Last year he placed 14th with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, with a best finish of second at Toronto.
His win lifted him to second in the IndyCar standings, and was redemption for the Honda driver, who was headed to a podium finish last year at Long Beach until he was spun by Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap.
IndyCar pulled out of Japan after the 2011 race, and Sato said he hopes his win at Long Beach will help return the series to his homeland.
"People in Japan love IndyCar," the 36-year-old Sato said. "I can't bring it back myself but I hope in some small way the win in Long Beach will help bring it back. I want to race in the Indy Japan before my career is over."