Team Penske's Will Power won his third straight race of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season and his third consecutive Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on the 2.635-mile, 11-turn street circuit, leading Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay to the checkered flags after 75 laps of mayhem on a dry Brazilian racetrack - for the first time. Each of the prior two races on this circuit have been wet and last year's was rain-delayed by one day.
The margin of victory was a scant 0.9045 seconds in a four-lap dash after the fifth full-course caution of the afternoon. Polesitter Power led the most laps, 63, with out-of-luck Scott Dixon leading the next most, eight. This victory gives Team Penske control of every race held in 2012 as teammate Helio Castroneves, fourth today behind the impressive Takuma Sato in Rahal Letterman Racing's Honda-powered Indy car won the first race at St Petersburg last month.
Power pretty much had everything his way and likely only knew about the carnage behind him when he came upon it during those five caution periods. Seemingly able to pull out his advantage at will (pun intended), the Australian owned this track again. "That (the final restart) was the key to winning. Ryan (Hunter-Reay) got a really good jump," Power said.
"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." Although there were sprinkles as the race drew to a close, "I was happy that it didn't rain right there at the end. We were ready for whatever condition."
Third at St Petersburg and gaining his second podium here Hunter-Reay said, "It was great racing with Will. He raced me really clean and it was a lot of fun. I thought that was my time to do it there on the [final] restart because he was getting such a great exit shot on so many corners… I knew I had to do it early, so I jumped it a little there to get by him early, but he had the inside. We raced clean."
Sato en route to third place - Photo courtesy IZOD IndyCar Series/LAT USAEnlarge Photo
Sato came from 25th on the grid after engine and transmission changes kept him from qualifying yesterday, earning his best career INDYCAR result. "It was an eventful race from the back of the grid," Sato said. "I needed to fight back so hard to get the positions back and the first part of the race was really hard." Having to follow the strategy, he incurred one of many pit speed violations and needed to perform drive-through absolution. "One by one, we overtook cars which was very exciting. In the end the restart got me into a great place. It is a fantastic feeling to finish third."
Castroneves came from 18th to finish fourth, leading three laps in the process. He credited "great calls on the pit strategy and the car was good." Dario Franchitti had a very eventful afternoon from second starting spot, staying with Power in the early going until being speared by fellow Honda driver Mike Conway and falling back to 22nd! The reigning and four-time champion would drive his way back to fifth place, his best finish of the season: "We kept fighting and it was a great job by the Target boys on pit lane. 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 fell back from his fourth grid spot with an evil-handling car in the early going but came back to finish sixth. "As the track dried out the car really came to us and we had the car back that we had yesterday - we set the third quickest lap and the car was hauling. We were able to bring home another top six." Hinch had a great battle with JR Hildebrand who finally got a good result of seventh to go with his on-circuit prowess. Admitting he left something on the table in qualifying, "Through some good strategy calls we were able to get up to the front and it as a lot of fun."
Charlie Kimball scored his best INDYCAR result on the streets of Sao Paulo in his Ganassi Honda-powered car of eighth this afternoon. "What an interesting race," he said after getting collected regularly in others' mishaps. "No corner went without some sort of contact. I'm thrilled to have a career-best finish here." EJ Viso was ninth for KV Racing Technology and teammate Rubens Barrichello finished tenth for his third consecutive top-10 result.