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Japan’s Takuma Sato wins at Indy Grand Prix of Alabama

UPDATED: Sun., April 7, 2019, 7:55 p.m.

Takuma Sato smiles as he waits for the start of a practice session for Sunday's IndyCar series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ORG XMIT: PAMS104 (Matt Slocum / AP)
Takuma Sato smiles as he waits for the start of a practice session for Sunday's IndyCar series auto race, Saturday, Aug. 18, 2018, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) ORG XMIT: PAMS104 (Matt Slocum / AP)
Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Takuma Sato of Japan won the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Sunday for his fourth career IndyCar victory.

Sato, the 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner, became the fifth driver to win after starting on the pole at Barber Motorsports Park and was in control most of the way. Scott Dixon earned his sixth runner-up finish in the race’s 10-year history.

Sato had a late issue when he went into the grass and lost about a second off his lead at the road course. He quickly gained it back over the final laps to win by 2.4 seconds. Dixon held off Sebastien Bourdais for second.

Sato reclaimed the top spot on lap 58 of the 90-lap race after coming out of pit road. It was the 11th lead change, a record for the race. Sato didn’t give it up again despite his precarious moment when he managed to maneuver the No. 30 Honda through the grass and back onto the track.

The ex-Formula 1 racer had become the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race in 2013 and the first to win the Indy 500 four years later.

He had never finished better than eighth at Barber.

Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing teammate, Graham Rahal, started second but ran into mechanical troubles. His car lost power on a straightaway to end his day after 55 laps, but the day was still a big success for the team. Sato won at Portland last year, his first with the team.

Two-time defending champion Josef Newgarden worked his way up to fourth after starting 16th. Newgarden, the series points leader, had won three of the last four Alabama races.

Bourdais navigated the 90-lap race with only two pit stops.

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