Penske’s Will Power won his third race of 2012 and his third Sao Paulo 300 Sunday, stretching his points lead and raising the question, will this be the year when he finally wins the IndyCar championship?
“Very happy to get that third win here and third in a row. We need to make it four in a row at the most important race next,” Power said after the race, referring to the upcoming Indianapolis 500.
Power dominated in his first year with Penske, but some strategy and pit errors cost him the championship. In his second year, he won the most races, but his bad finishes pulled him down. He might have won the championship had he won the final race, but that race was cut short by the death of Dan Wheldon.
As for winning the championship this year, he told the post-race press conference that he and Team Penske aren’t really thinking about it.
“We’ve had some great starts to the season the last two years and fell short both times. So keep the head down, just try to enjoy it, enjoy my race.
“After Vegas last year, I’ve really changed my outlook on things. I try to just enjoy each race, and you know, just have fun with it rather than be so intense about it.”
Power came to Brazil knowing how to win in the wet or dry on the 2.536-mile, 11-turn course laid out on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sunday’s race stayed dry, thought there was some moisture in the first corner at the start of the race. Regardless, the start was clean, and Power led 65 of the 75 laps of the race. He didn’t drive away from the field, but he was quick enough that no one ever had a shot at passing him.
Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second; he did his best to make Power’s race difficult, but even on Hunter-Reay’s best opportunity, the final restart with five laps to go, he could pull alongside Power but couldn’t get by.
That restart was the key to the race, power said. “Ryan [Hunter-Reay] 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.”
“I was certainly going hard, giving Will Power every bit of fight that I had in me going into turn one,” Hunter-Reay explained. “I tried to get him around the outside, but everything was clean. We all raced clean, and it was a good race. It was a lot of fun, but we came up just a little bit short. We’re happy to take the points, though.”
Takuma Satto, who would have finished third at Long Beach had Ryan hunter-Reay not punted him on the final lap, got his first IndyCar podium finish at Sao Paulo with a very aggressive two-car pass on the second-to-last restart.
“I’m very excited to be here because we had a few problems in the start of the season,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve seen a checkered flag, The first time this season, and to be in third place is fantastic.”
After clean restarts at the season’s first three races, IndyCar drivers reverted to their old ways, making hash of three of the five double-file restarts. In defense of the drivers, Turn One at Sao Paulo is very narrow and the slightest error can lead to an accordion.
Hyperaggression is also part of the problem; even though Sao Paulo offers ample passing zones, some drivers could not resist making bold moves. Some, as with Sato’s paid off. Most lead to collisions, and once an eight-car pileup.
Next Up: The Indianapolis 500
IndyCar heads to the Brickyard next: the biggest race on the schedule, the Greatest Spectacle in Motor Racing, the series’ centerpiece—the Indianapolis 500. Helio Castroneves wants to join the ranks of four-time winners; Dario Franchitti wants his first win of 2012 to be his third Indy 500 win. Tony Kanaan wants to win his first, and Will Power wants the same.
This will be the first oval race of the season and the first with the new Dallara DW-12. Many teams will be scrambling to find the right set-up both for qualifying and for race day.
Practice for the Indy 500 starts Sunday, May 13; tickets for these sessions (a steal at $10) are available online from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway website. Qualifying begins Saturday, May 19, with Bump Day Sunday the 20th. Tickets are $15 for each day.
Thursday the Firestone Indy Lights cars practice and qualify—admission is free.
Friday, Miller Lite Carb Day, features the Pit Stop Challenge, Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100, final Indianapolis 500 Practice and a concert by legendary rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd—all for $20.
Saturday May 26 offers autograph sessions, vintage racing, and a drivers’ meeting (open to the public) all for $10.
Sunday, May 27 is the big day: the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, an event even casual fans will want to attend at least once in a lifetime. Tickets start at just $30, again available online through the Speedway website.