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Changing of the guard in IndyCar?

| Monday, April 22, 2013, 7:24 p.m.

IndyCar long has been dominated by three powerhouse teams, leaving those outside Andretti, Ganassi and Penske fighting for scraps.

Rarely has there been an opportunity for someone else to steal a surprise win or share a portion of the spotlight. Then came Sunday and a podium full of unfamiliar faces at the prestigious Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race, a victory that ended an 11-year losing streak for A.J. Foyt Racing and the first on a street or road course for the organization since 1978 when “Super Tex” himself was behind the wheel at Silverstone.

Second went to Graham Rahal, who left Chip Ganassi Racing at the end of last year for the shot to be a No. 1 driver for the first time in his career. His opportunity is at Rahal Letterman Lanigan, the team owned by his father that just returned to full-time IndyCar competition last year.

And it was Justin Wilson rounding out the podium in a car fielded by Dale Coyne Racing, a team that didn't bother to announce its driver lineup until after the first practice of last month's season-opening race at St. Pete. The team has had its share of sloppy mistakes since bringing Wilson on board last season, and Long Beach was no exception: Wilson never made a qualifying lap because the team failed to get an approved wing on his car in time for him to get on the track.

So it's fair to say likely nobody picked that trifecta. After all, IndyCar said it had been 10 years since Andretti, Ganassi and Penske had all been shut out from a podium. The last time it happened was at Motegi in 2003 when Scott Sharp's win for Kelley Racing led an improbable Kelley, Rahal and Mo Nunn podium.

The podium proved what AJ Allmendinger has been shouting to the NASCAR world for months: IndyCar is competitive all the way down the grid.

“There's no bad guys here anymore,” Rahal said. “Look, I left Ganassi Racing, and I left there for a reason: I felt like this team can be as good and competitive as any.”

With different faces competing for wins, and different teams showing they are capable of running up front, it's shaping up to be an intriguing season for IndyCar.

“It's just so tense. There's so many drivers in this championship that are capable of winning races,” Wilson said. “You can't afford to miss anything. You can't afford to have a bad result.”

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