Will Power wins IndyCar season opener in Brazil
In his first race since sustaining a season-ending back injury last August at Infineon Raceway, Power started fifth on the 2.5-mile temporary street circuit, configured around the Sao Paulo "Sambadrome", and was running second when the race was red-flagged due to a heavy rain shower on Lap 35 of a scheduled 75. When racing resumed 35 minutes later, it became a timed event with just over 40 minutes remaining.
At the restart, the field was still running wet weather "rain tires" and pit strategy - deciding when to change to dry weather "slicks" - became a key element in the outcome of the race. Power was one of the first to change and, although he resumed in sixth place, he soon moved up the order as the circuit continued to dry. At the front of the field, Hunter-Reay and Power's teammate, Ryan Briscoe, traded the lead until Briscoe nosed into the wall on Lap 53 to end his challenge.
Just behind the leaders, A.J. Foyt Racing's Vitor Meira was in the thick of a fierce battle for third place that included fellow Brazilian Raphael Matos and former series champions Dan Wheldon, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti. Meira, also in his first race since sustaining a season-ending back injury at the 2009 Indianapolis 500, passed Matos for third on Lap 57 to claim the final podium position and best finish among seven Brazilian drivers participating in their home-country event.
The race was red-flagged for 36 minutes after a thunderstorm swept over the Anhembi section of the city, and it became a timed race. It was also the first time that an IZOD IndyCar Series event held qualifying and race on the same day.
A scary accident in the first turn at the start of the race saw KV Racing rookie Takuma Sato run into the back of two cars and then further back KV Racing's Mario Moraes missed his braking point and ran over the car of Marco Andretti with his car hitting Andretti's helmet hard and banding his neck down and to the left, which could have been very serious.
Luckily Andretti walked away with just some bruises.
From track challenges to downpours to crashes, this season opener was one that won't be forgotten -- especially by Power.
"It was probably the most mixed up race that I have ever been in, but it created an opportunity for me and the Verizon team to come back through the field and end up winning the race," said Power of the event that saw qualifying postponed to Sunday morning after the track was ground down Saturday night to improve the slick conditions on the long straightaway. "The improvements that they made to the track last night were like night and day. I didn't have a problem at all going down the front straight. I think it was just a really good day for racing. If you were fast, you could pass, because there is such a good track layout here. I'm pretty sure it was an exciting race for the fans."
The teams now pack up their gear to be loaded into two 747â€™s cargo jets and shipped back to the States in preparation for the second race of the season in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 28th.
1. (5) Will Power, Dallara-Honda, 61, Running
Points: Power 50, Hunter-Reay 40, Meira 35, Matos 32, Wheldon 30, Franchitti 29, Dixon 28, Conway 24, Castroneves 22, Kanaan 20.
Ana Beatriz painted her fingernails blue to match the accents on her firesuit. She is carrying the yellow and blue colors of Brazilian oil company Ipiranga.
Carbon emissions connected with the SÃ£o Paulo Indy 300 will be offset by 14,165 trees to be planted throughout the state of SÃ£o Paulo by sugarcane, ethanol and bioelectricity mills.
A study commissioned by the Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA), with support from the Indy Racing League, has identified the emissions produced by the event in the Anhembi section of the city as 1,137 tons of carbon and calculated the number of trees (8,128) required to make the event carbon neutral. UNICA went a step further, with plans to plant 6,037 additional trees in an area about the size of 30 acres.
"This is a first for an automotive event in Brazil, making the race a sustainable event," UNICA president and CEO Marcos Jank said.
DAVEY HAMILTON: ""I've never been in a race car at that time of the day. The good thing is the (grinding) worked and it was all worth it."
While in Brazil for a trade mission, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard attended the IZOD IndyCar Series' season-opening SÃ£o Paulo Indy 300 on March 14.
Also in a frontstretch suite of the scenic temporary street circuit as guests of Apex-Brasil and the Indy Racing League were Scott Miller, CEO of Indianapolis Economic Development Inc., and Michael Young, its energy director. They also attended a news conference in which Apex-Brasil - the Brazilian government's export development agency - extended its official trade and energy partnership with the IZOD IndyCar Series through 2012.
"We had a team come down earlier this week for some economic development and I wanted to come down to make sure we supported the first race in Sao Paulo. I think that's important for the IRL," Ballard said. "We've been warmly received in this very large city. This is the second time we've been in Brazil in the last few months. We want to create these relationships that are long-lasting and help both Brazil and the City of Indianapolis."
PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE POST-QUALIFYING NOTES:
â€¢ This is Dario Franchitti's first pole of the season and the 12th of his IZOD IndyCar Series career.
â€¢ Franchitti was the only driver to qualify for each Firestone Fast Six session in 2009 and has made eight consecutive Firestone Fast Six appearances.
â€¢ Alex Tagliani qualified second, his career-best qualifying performance and his second Firestone Fast Six appearance.
â€¢ Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified fourth in his first Firestone Fast Six appearance since Watkins Glen in 2008.
PEAK PERFORMANCE POLE POST-QUALIFYING QUOTE:
DARIO FRANCHITTI: (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PEAK Performance Pole Award winner): "I was a little surprised to get into (the Firestone Fast Six). I didn't have a very good day yesterday. We struggled to get my car the way I wanted it to work. We all sat around the table and came up with some ideas, and I think we saw the results. I give all the credit to the team. Today, the track is great. The tires are lasting very well. It will be a good race."
SAO PAULO INDY 300 POST-RACE NOTES:
â€¢ This is Will Power's second IZOD IndyCar Series victory. His other win came on the temporary circuit at Edmonton in 2009. This is Power's first race since he suffered a back injury at Infineon in August, 2009.
â€¢ This is Team Penske's 36 win in the IZOD IndyCar Series. The team's last victory came with Ryan Briscoe at Chicagoland Speedway in 2009.
â€¢ Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second in his debut race with Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay also finished second at the 2009 IZOD IndyCar Series season opener, on the streets of St. Petersburg.
â€¢ Vitor Meira finished third, his first race since he suffered a season-ending back injury at Indianapolis in 2009. It is his first top-three finish since he finished second at Indianapolis in 2008.
â€¢ Raphael Matos finished fourth, a career best IZOD IndyCar Series finish for the sophomore driver.
SAO PAULO INDY 300 POST-RACE QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, winner Sao Paulo Indy 300): "It was probably the most mixed up race that I have ever been in, but it created an opportunity for me to come back through the field and end up winning the race. The improvements that they did to the track last night, were like night and day. Not a problem at all going down the front straight. I think it is just a really good day for racing. If you were fast you could pass, because there is such a good track layout here. I'm pretty sure it was an exciting race for the fans.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, finished second): "It is great to have a race in Brazil. This has been a long time coming. The country and the fans are so passionate about racing. It's great to do it here. And that was a great show we put on. That's what we need on these street circuit and road courses is a lot of passing like that. We definitely have the tools to do it. We have two straightaways that were pretty long and provided pretty good passing zones. The only shame about the whole race is that it went red for some puddles because there were a lot of big dips out there and our cars hydroplane pretty easily. It would have been great to get some good rain racing in. Maybe next year we will fill in those things and see where it goes. It was just great to get the IZOD car up on the podium in second place to start of the season.
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing, finished third): "It couldn't be much better than that. I think Will (Power) can relate to it with a back injury and all that, it gets pretty uncertain at some times and having a team behind you making sure that the seat is available, makes a big difference during the recovery. This is the start of the big thank you I have to give to A.J. (Foyt) and ABC Supply. I hope we get better. We overcame a lot here. Like Will said before, it was a mixed up race. I think whether you were able to keep your nose clean and were fast enough to make up position in all conditions, you could come out with a good result and that's what we did.
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon Racing, finished fourth): "It was a long and very physical day, but I'm very proud of the HP team, especially with our pit stops. They did a great job. We all feel good about the fourth place finish. We wanted the podium, but we started 12th and made a lot of progress. This week was like a dream come true racing in my home country and in front of my friends and family. There was a lot of tension and pressure but we kept everything together and brought the car home. It was extremely important to finish this race and to get my best finish in Brazil was very rewarding.
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing, finished fifth): "It's really great for all of us at Panther Racing to start the season with a top-five, but first I have to apologize for taking Tag (Alex Tagliani) and TK (Tony Kanaan) out of the race. Tag had a bit of a bobble coming onto the straight and I got a really good run; he defended a little bit and I was going to look to the inside, but decided to pull in just a touch, and when I braked I hit a really big bump and it just lifted my front wheels off the ground. When that happens you can't stop. That was a really good effort from the National Guard boys, and I think it goes to show that we work really hard as a group, and the continuity around here has been really strong, and I'm sure it will continue. If we keep coming in the Top Five we're going to break into Victory Lane. We were really strong today - the car was really nice to drive and I was able to dive down inside people. It was an exciting race, and it's going to be an exciting IZOD IndyCar Series season."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished sixth): "It was a very tough race. I'm proud of the Target Team for rebounding after the accident at the start. I'll take this any day especially after the start we had last year in St. Petersburg."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing, finished seventh): "If I had my crystal ball it would have been easier. We get it right quite often here at Team Target but we had a lot of unknowns with the weather. We played it as best we could, so I can't be too disappointed."
MARIO ROMANCINI ( No. 34 Conquest Racing): "I learned a lot this weekend. Everything was new to me and we experienced some difficulties, preventing us from running as much as we would have liked each session. Things improved during the race after the first pit stop and we were doing great lap times. We were running competitively until the rain came. After the restart that we were a lap down and I was working to improve my position when I caught some water on the curb and lost the car. Unfortunately the race was over for us there. Now we have to turn the page and look forward to the St. Petersburg race, using the things that we learned here this weekend."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds/HVM): "Despite the rear braking problems and the different things that happened during the race, it was a real good experience. I think we can be pretty competitive during the year, and now we just have to continue to work real hard. I'm sure we'll go in the right direction. A big thank you to my Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing crew for working so hard and to everyone who had a part in getting me to this point. I am very grateful to them all"
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven): "The weekend could have been better; but on the positive side the whole 7-Eleven team did a great job on stops and we had a fast car. Unfortunately, we had to pay for the mistakes of others. It happens. I don't think it was on purpose and I believe I've made mistakes like that before. It's a shame it had to happen here in Brazil, in my hometown. I enjoyed the weekend, I enjoyed the crowd and I enjoyed the racing. My car was really good. I had the fastest lap of the race and I passed cars right up until the last corner. That's the positive. The negative is that I'd love to be on the podium right now with the Brazilian flag."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com): "I think the weekend started really tough for the No. 7 car and then we made a lot of progress at the end of the first practice day and that was really good. I'm proud of everyone for staying together and forging ahead instead of getting down. We missed the setup a bit in qualifying, but for the race I think my engineer (Eddie Jones) got the downforce right and my car was really good. We made it up to eighth and were making passes happen. Then when the rain started not everyone came in right away and we gambled on staying out. I mean, you've got to try and win the race. The front half of the track was wet and I locked up going into Turns 1 and 2, but worst off the car stalled. At the end of the day I think the GoDaddy.com car is going to be strong this year and the team overall is a lot stronger than we've been. It was a good first out for us.
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation-KVRT): "It was definitely a tough race for the PDVSA - KVRT team. The circumstances were very weird, we had a lot of rain, no rain, problems with the track and a lot of accidents but in the end we did what we set out to do and finish the race and get some points. I am looking forward to St. Petersburg and believe this is just the start of a good championship.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology): "After yesterday's practice session, we knew a lot of work had to be done. The KV Racing Technology team did a great job in coming together this morning and I was able to improve my lap time by quite a lot. I felt a lot more comfortable than yesterday and very happy that we recovered well during qualifying however I was very disappointed with the start of the race. It was very packed and there was a lot of dust. Unfortunately I got caught up in an accident in Turn One, it was not a good memory for my first IZOD IndyCar race, but seeing E.J. (Viso) finish solid and the KVRT team working well together makes me feel overall that we have learned a lot and I look forward to my next race in St. Petersburg, Florida.
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology): "It was a disappointing day for me and the Panamericano-KV Racing Technology team. The start was very dusty and drivers in front of me were braking early into Turn One. By the time I realized it was about 500 meters into the corner and when I applied the brakes I lost the rear and hit another car ending my race on the first lap."
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "It was a disappointing race for the Formula Dream / Panasonic team. We had moved up as high as sixth, and when I was in seventh I went into the marbles in Turn 3 and couldn't turn the car and many cars passed me while I was sliding everywhere. Then I almost hit Vitor (Meira), who was fighting with another car. Vitor slowed so I had to brake harder and lost the back end and had nowhere to go. They were my mistakes. We have to move on and focus on having a good weekend in St. Pete."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "It's obviously dusty. I think if you have any common sense, you're not going to stay flat out if you can't see the car ahead of you. I don't know, I got hit from behind."
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