Hinchcliffe, Sato deliver finish for the ages in Sao Paulo

After battling each other wheel-to-wheel in one of the most electric finishes in IZOD IndyCar Series history, there was nothing left for James Hinchcliffe and Takuma Sato to do but smile, laugh, and share an embrace.

Two of the best this series has to offer in terms of on-track talent and off-track humility brought the Brazilian race fans to their feet in the closing stages of Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 at Anhembi Park. Sato, running on a set of tires that were almost 40 laps old, had managed to turn back attempts on his lead from Josef Newgarden and had similarly repelled moves from Hinchcliffe with tactics that sat right between defense and blocking.

But as the former Formula One driver and the Canadian upstart headed for the final corner of the race, Sato briefly over-drove the corner and allowed Hinchcliffe to go inside of him to take the lead and win the event in grand fashion.

Hinchcliffe could’ve had a beef over Sato’s moves to defend his lead on the backstretch. Sato could’ve been a sore loser after missing out on a chance to collect back-to-back victories.

Instead, they congratulated each other on their hard-fought efforts that caused the packed grandstands to momentarily forget about the crushing twist of fate that befell their countryman, Tony Kanaan, who had contended for the win himself but ran out of fuel midway through the race.

As you can see on this website, Brazilians certainly love their heroes, but they know a great race when they see one, especially in a brand new Acura TLX.

And Hinchcliffe and Sato gave them, and everyone else that watched around the world, one to remember.

“Once I got around Josef [Newgarden], I knew I had more overtakes than Takuma did and thought, ‘This might be possible,'” said Hinchcliffe of his daring move. “He was doing such a good job making it wide, making it difficult to pass going into the last corner, I didn’t think we had it. Going into the last corner, he overshot it. It wasn’t really until I crossed the line that I realized, ‘We got it.'”

“The last few laps was great fun from a driver’s point of view,” Sato said. “It’s a real pity that I lost it on the final lap of the race on the final corner. But that shows how we are competitive, how our series is really fun [for those] watching the race.  I think the fans really enjoyed it…A win would be great, but otherwise I really fought hard on the track today and I’m really proud of the whole team.  The guys did a great job.”

Beyond the exploits of Hinchcliffe and Sato, the race was full of dramatic efforts. Marco Andretti continued his transformation into a really good road/street racer with his second podium of the finish, while Oriol Servia came through with a fourth for Panther DRR, which may be forced to bow out of the championship following the Indianapolis 500 due to funding problems. Then there was Newgarden, who started 25th due to an engine change but still challenged for an upset win before worn tires caused him to drop to fifth.

As for Kanaan, his fuel calamity was the biggest hard-luck moment of the race. He started fourth and moved up to the lead on Lap 10, which earned him a hearty roar from the crowd. Another wave of cheers came when he re-took the point later on at Lap 45, but just six laps later, his No. 11 Itaipava Chevrolet slowed down and came to a stop, bone dry, on the frontstretch. His race was effectively ruined.

The other two Brazilians, Helio Castroneves and Ana Beatriz, had days to forget. Castroneves was involved in numerous incidents and came home 13th to fall out of the championship lead (Sato now leads Andretti by 13 points going into Indy). Beatriz had her day end before it really began, as mechanical trouble sidelined her in the opening laps.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300

Final results

Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

2. (12) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

3. (10) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

4. (13) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

5. (25) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

6. (2) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

7. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

8. (8) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

9. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

10. (17) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

11. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

12. (15) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

13. (18) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

14. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

15. (11) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

16. (21) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

17. (24) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

18. (6) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running

19. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running

20. (9) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 73, Running

21. (4) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 72, Running

22. (19) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 71, Running

23. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 71, Running

24. (22) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 17, Mechanical

25. (16) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 6, Mechanical

Race Statistics

Winners average speed: 88.070; Time of Race: 02:09:34.7383; Margin of victory: 0.3463 of a second; Cautions: 7 for 19 laps; Lead changes: 9 among 7 drivers

Lap Leaders

Hunter-Reay 1 – 9, Kanaan 10 – 20, Bourdais 21 – 33, Sato 34 – 37, Hunter-Reay 38 – 44, Kanaan 45, Andretti 46 – 52, Hildebrand 53 – 56, Sato 57 – 74, Hinchcliffe 75

Point Standings: Sato 136, Andretti 123, Castroneves 116, Hinchcliffe 112, Dixon 101, Hunter-Reay 94, Wilson 91, Servia 89, de Silvestro 86, Kimball 80.