Terrific three-peat

Will Power is white-hot going into Indy after claiming third straight win in Sao Paulo

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The winning beat goes on for DJ Willy P. In this case, however, said beat was likely a samba.

Considering the wet forecasts for this weekend’s Sao Paulo Indy 300, it’s a shock that this race was run completely in the dry despite reports of a few sprinkles here and there. But what’s not shocking is that Will Power is still the man to beat in Brazil as he claimed his third straight Sao Paulo win, besting Ryan Hunter-Reay by nine-tenths of a second at the checkered flag.

It’s also Power’s third straight IZOD IndyCar Series victory overall after winning earlier this month at Barber Motorsports Park and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Needless to say, all the mojo, the good vibes, the momentum — whatever you wish to call it — is with the pride of Toowoomba, Australia going into preparations for the 96th Indianapolis 500.

Of course, Power, humble enough to have already admitted that he goes into each season thinking he’ll never win another race, doesn’t see his latest triumph as a dominant one despite leading 63 of the race’s 75 laps.

“I was driving and giving it everything, absolutely everything I had to keep [Hunter-Reay] behind,” said Power. “I knew I had to pull some sort of gap, because if you keep him at tow, he would most definitely be able to pass me.”

Indeed, Hunter-Reay stalked Power in the final stages and got not one, but two restart attempts within the final ten laps to steal the victory. With eight laps remaining, Power held the point as he, Hunter-Reay and third-place Takuma Sato escaped a major stack-up of drivers that ensued after Mike Conway hit the wall coming out of the narrow S of Samba complex.

That left a final restart with four laps to go, which saw Hunter-Reay challenge Power on the outside lane. But the inside lane was the one to have in the tight chicanes that make up the S of Samba and Power not only kept the lead but pulled away.

“[Hunter-Reay] got a really good jump,” Power said about that last restart. “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.”

Hunter-Reay was forced to settle for his second podium in four races this season. But while the American driver wasn’t altogether happy with the result — “if it weren’t for Will Power, I’d have a quite a few more wins on my resume for sure,” he cracked — he is also looking at the big picture as the battle for the championship shifts to its biggest stage at Indianapolis.

“We’re certainly focusing on the championship this year,” said Hunter-Reay, who now sits fourth in the title race. “We’re points racing. Last year at this time, we were 20th in points going into Indianapolis…So it’s the way we wanted to start the season, and if we just keep consistently finishing on the podium, finishing in the Top 5 like we have been, then I think everything will be very good with three or four races left to go.

“So we take it one lap at a time, one race at a time. So we’re not looking further into the future. Now we have our sights set on Indianapolis.”

Also going to Indy with a bit of wind in his sails is Takuma Sato. Two weeks ago at Long Beach, Sato was one lap away from claiming his first IndyCar podium but was knocked back to eighth after getting spun out by Hunter-Reay, who in turn was dropped from third to sixth at the finish after a penalty for avoidable contact.

One race later, Sato finally has that first podium in the series after a great drive from the 25th starting position, where he was forced to start after an unapproved engine change overnight triggered the standard 10-spot penalty on the grid. Sato also had to deal with a drive-through penalty during Sunday’s event for speeding on pit road after a stop.

But on the restart with eight laps to go, Sato managed to get to the inside of Dario Franchitti and managed to sneak past the three-time defending series champion for third place just before the mayhem started behind them.

“There is always opportunity on a restart, but you never know until you hit the brake because there is no plan basically,” said Sato of his podium-securing pass. “When Helio [Castroneves] and Dario were in front of me, two wide, initially I thought there was no chance, but when I saw their braking point was earlier than I expected, I saw a little opportunity to dive inside. I was confident that I would make the corner, so I was very excited.”

Speaking of Castroneves, he wound up leading the Brazilian foursome of drivers that enjoyed the crowd’s adulation with a fourth-place effort. Rubens Barrichello, the former Formula 1 star that had a massive following all weekend long, came home 10th while game efforts by Tony Kanaan and Ana Beatriz were undone by being involved in the late stack-up. Kanaan and Beatriz finished 13th and 20th respectively.

IZOD IndyCar Series
Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 pres. by Nestle
Anhembi Park — Sao Paulo, Brazil

1. 12-Will Power, Penske-Chevy, average of 88.945 mph, led 63 laps

2. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti-Chevy, -.9045 seconds

3. 15-Takuma Sato, RLL-Honda, -2.3905 seconds

4. 3-Helio Castroneves, Penske-Chevy, -4.5489 seconds

5. 10-Dario Franchitti, Ganassi-Honda, -5.1722 seconds

6. 27-James Hinchcliffe, Andretti-Chevy, -6.2615 seconds

7. 4-JR Hildebrand, Panther-Chevy, 75, -8.3764 seconds

8. 83-Charlie Kimball, Ganassi-Honda, -8.5905 seconds

9. 5-EJ Viso, KVRT-Chevy, -10.3449 seconds

10. 8-Rubens Barrichello, KVRT-Chevy, -10.8477 seconds

11. 22-Oriol Servia, DRR-Lotus, -24.4771 seconds

12. 77-Simon Pagenaud, SHM-Honda, one lap down

13. 11-Tony Kanaan, KVRT-Chevy, one lap down

14. 26-Marco Andretti, Andretti-Chevy, one lap down

15. 19-James Jakes, Coyne-Honda, one lap down

16. 38-Graham Rahal, Ganassi-Honda, one lap down

17. 9-Scott Dixon, Ganassi-Honda, one lap down

18. 7-Sebastien Bourdais, Dragon-Lotus, one lap down

19. 14-Mike Conway, Foyt-Honda, two laps down

20. 25-Ana Beatriz, Andretti-Chevy, two laps down

21. 20-Ed Carpenter, ECR-Chevy, three laps down

22. 18-Justin Wilson, Coyne-Honda, Lap 66, Mechanical

23. 67-Josef Newgarden, SFHR-Honda, Lap 61, Contact

24. 78-Simona de Silvestro, HVM-Lotus, Lap 28, Contact

25. 2-Ryan Briscoe, Penske-Chevy, Lap 21, Contact

26. 6-Katherine Legge, Dragon-Lotus, Lap 20, Contact

 

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 88.945 mph

Time of Race: Two hours, eight minutes, 18.2816 seconds

Margin of victory: .9045 of a second

Cautions: Five for 15 laps

Lead changes: Five among five drivers

 

Lap Leaders:

Power 1 – 51

Franchitti 52

Castroneves 53 – 54

Hinchcliffe 55

Dixon 56 – 63

Power 64 – 75

Point Standings:
Will Power 180
Helio Castroneves 135
James Hinchcliffe 123
Ryan Hunter-Reay 121
Simon Pagenaud 118
Scott Dixon 109
Takuma Sato 83
Ryan Briscoe 83
JR Hildebrand 83
Dario Franchitti 82