Apr 29, 2012
SÃO PAULO, Brazil – Will Power noted in the post-qualifying news conference that rain "might mix up the results" of the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.
He didn't mention anything about multiple full-course cautions because of multi-car contact.
The weather cooperated as early morning rain abated and the 2.536-mile, 11-turn concrete/asphalt circuit dried in time for the 75-lap race. And Power, the pole sitter, did his part, staying ahead of the trouble for his third consecutive victory of the season and the third in a row at the Anhembi circuit.
Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, held off Ryan Hunter-Reay on a Lap 71 restart and won by 0.9045 of a second. Takuma Sato, who started 25th because of an unapproved Honda engine change and overcame a Lap 12 pit lane speed violation penalty, earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series podium finish.
Click it: Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle box score
Power is the first driver since Scott Dixon in 2007 to win three consecutive races (Watkins Glen, Nashville, Mid-Ohio). With Helio Castroneves winning at St. Petersburg, it's the first time in his 44-year motorsports career that team owner Roger Penske has won the first four races of a season.
There were five full-course cautions, including incidents on Lap 29 and Lap 67 restarts that bottled up six cars and eight cars, respectively, in the slow speed Turns 1-2 complex to mix up the running order (i.e. On Lap 34, all four Brazilian drivers were in the top 10. Only Rubens Barrichello remained there in the box score).
Power, who inherited the point when Scott Dixon pitted under caution on Lap 64, held off Hunter-Reay on the Lap 67 restart, which quickly turned into a Turn 1 parking lot that collected, among others, Dixon. Recognizing it as possibly his final opportunity to overtake Power, Hunter-Reay moved to the outside in Turn 1 of the Lap 71 green flag.
"(The final restart) was the key to winning," said Power, the series leader by 45 points heading into the Indianapolis 500. "Ryan got a really good jump. I knew I just had to go like you wouldn't believe through the first complex of corners because I knew he could get a run on me. Ryan is one of the hardest guys you will ever race; he never gives up.”
Added Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car for Andretti Autosport: "I really, really challenged him on the outside. I thought that was my time to do it there on the restart because he was getting such a great exit out of so many corners. Jumped it a little bit there and tried to get him, but he had that inside.”
Castroneves overtook front-row starter Dario Franchitti on that restart to finish fourth. Franchitti's No. 10 Lexar Media car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing was bumped from behind on a Lap 26 restart in Turn 1 to drop to 22nd. There was enough laps and enough attrition for the reigning series champion to make his way back.
"We got hit on that restart and spun out but we kept fighting and it was a great job by the Target boys on pit lane," said Franchiti, who moved to ninth on the all-time Indy car list with 108 top-five finishes. "It just didn't work out today. We were up there and didn't get the mileage we needed. We almost got back up to the front but the last two restarts weren't the best for us."
James Hinchcliffe, JR Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball -- rookies in 2011 -- finished ahead of E.J. Viso in ninth.
“This track, especially now with the different engine manufacturers – and the car is more sensitive when you take downforce out – lends itself to being able to make some passes out there,” Hildebrand said. “You combine that with the difference between the red and black Firestone tires and it made for a really exciting race. It certainly was for us.
“I know all of us at Panther are happy to come away from here with a solid top 10 and head into the Month of May in the top 10 in the points standings.”
Barrichello, competing in his first IZOD IndyCar Series race in his hometown, recorded his third consecutive top-10 finish.