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Originally published Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 12:09 PM

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Honda celebrates 20 years in racing at Long Beach

When Dario Franchitti won the pole for Sunday's race at Long Beach, it put Honda out front for the first time this season.

The Associated Press

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LONG BEACH, Calif. —

When Dario Franchitti won the pole for Sunday's race at Long Beach, it put Honda out front for the first time this season.

The manufacturer has not had the start it had hoped for the 2013 IndyCar season, which celebrated this weekend the 20th anniversary of Honda Performance Development. The festivities were scheduled for Monday's annual "Race Day" when Honda drivers visit HPD and American Honda headquarters in Los Angeles.

Throughout its two decades of existence, HPD has followed the directive of Tetsuo Iwamura, president of parent company American Honda.

"Our Challenging Spirit must be relentless," he said. "One after the other, each of us must be ever vigilant, to relentlessly overcome each challenge, to reach higher, set more innovative goals, and bring joy to our customers. The company cannot rely on its past successes, but must willingly revitalize itself by challenging each associate to achieve a greater level of innovation."

Honda has turned a corner since the season-opener at St. Pete, where flagship team owner Chip Ganassi questioned the engine manufacturer's commitment to winning. The Honda cars had lagged all weekend, and Honda drivers were shut out of the podium.

But it was a better showing two weeks later in Long Beach, where Scott Dixon finished second and three Hondas made it into the Fast Six round of qualifying.

Then came Franchitti's pole at Long Beach, where Honda again put three drivers in the Fast Six.

"I think Honda made massive strides," Franchitti said. "Actually pretty bad there in St. Pete to put a lap together. But I think Honda worked unbelievably hard to close the gap to Chevy, and we've seen it at Barber, and I think we saw it again (at Long Beach). So it's getting closer and closer."

Honda's history runs strong in open wheel, where engines produced or tuned by HPD have won 196 Indy car races under CART, IRL and IndyCar sanction. HPD also produces engines for the American Le Mans Series and FIA Endurance Championship competition, as well as grassroots and entry-level categories including karting, Quarter Midgets and Formula F.

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