For the first time ever, monsoon like rains stayed away from the Anhembi Circuit at Sao Paulo’s Sambadrome, so moisture had no influence on the Itaipava Sao Paulo 300 presented by Nestle. That was pretty much the only thing that changed. The results were the same as they have been for the past three years; Will Power dominates and takes home the trophy.
Three weeks, three wins. Is there anything else you can say about this season for Will Power? With the exception of being caught out on pit strategy, Will’s season has pretty much been perfect in actual race sessions. Even when Ryan Hunter-Reay turned up the wick a bit in the closing laps of Sao Paulo, Power was able to make his car roughly 45 feet wide and hold off the charging #28 Sun Drop/DHL Dallara Chevrolet.
Power wins the race by a margin of .9045 of a second over Ryan Hunter-Reay. Power led 63 of 75 laps, only losing the lead while pitting. Takuma Sato finally got his well deserved podium, finishing third in a masterful drive for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves was the highest finishing Brazilian, bringing his car home in 4th, while Dario Franchitti rounded out the Top Five, seemingly getting his groove back.
The race began thirty minutes early due to threatening skies, but that didn’t seem to faze the sold out crowd at the Anhembi Circuit, as the stands were packed. Will Power led the field to green and immediately protected his lead. The first 23 laps clicked through pretty quickly with a cycle of green flag pit stops. The only incident was on Lap 21, when Katherine Legge slapped the rear of her TrueCar Dallara Lotus into the wall, breaking the rear suspension and ending her day. Katie Kaboom was running some pretty solid lap times prior to her tank slapper, but alas, the damage was too great to repair. The first caution came out on Lap 23, when Ryan Briscoe pushed a bit too hard on cold tires. His front wheels didn’t grip, and they started hopping on a particularly bumpy section of track at Turn 10, causing him to lose control and parallel park his Dallara Chevrolet into the tire barrier.
The old saying is “cautions breed cautions,” which was certainly the case on the Lap 26 restart, when Mike Conway punted Dario Franchitti at Turn 1, bringing out the caution yet again. The incident was reviewed, but chalked up to nothing more than a racing incident. Conway had to come in for a new nose, but Franchitti suffered no damage.
Lap 29, we’re back under green. Lap 29, we’re back under caution. Simona de Silvestro, in a very uncharacter-esque derpy moment, takes out Josef Newgarden, causing a massive pileup in Turn 1, hampering Newgarden’s day and damaging the #19 Boy Scouts of America/Acorn Stairlifts Dallara Honda of James Jakes. Sebastien Bourdais, Charlie Kimball and Mike Conway(again) were involved in the incident. In the follow up pit stops from this incident, there’s contact between Marco Andretti and **SURPRISE!** Mike Conway on Lap 31, but there’s no penalty and no damage. In the process, Andretti is told to fall behind Sato for passing under yellow, and Graham Rahal is assessed a pass through penalty for speeding in pit.
Restart on Lap 33, and this time we manage to get multiple laps under green. Simon Pagenaud has to come in for a new nose on Lap 36, while Will Power absolutely pulls away from Ryan Hunter-Reay. Both Power and Hunter-Reay come to pits on Lap 52, handing the lead to Dario Franchitti, who has worked his way back to the front. Franchitti comes in on Lap 53, handing the lead to Helio Castroneves. Castroneves pits on Lap 55, surrendering the lead to James Hinchcliffe, who pits on lap 56, giving the lead to Scott Dixon. Since Dixon is off sequence, he gets to hold the lead for a bit, leading Will Power by roughly 3 seconds.
Caution on Lap 63 as Josef Newgarden is stopped at Turn 5, as well as Ed Carpenter getting pushed off course by Ana Beatriz in Turn 11. Beatriz is issued a pass through penalty for avoidable contact. Dixon comes in for fuel on Lap 64, handing the lead back to Will Power.
Remember that “cautions breed cautions” deal? On Lap 67, Will Power leads the field to green, and the caution comes back out. There is a massive pileup involving Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Ana Beatriz, James Jakes, and……prepare yourselves….. Mike Conway. The knot is untangled, and the green flag is thrown again on Lap 71. Will Power basically runs away from Ryan Hunter-Reay, taking his third victory of 2012, third victory in a row, and third consecutive victory at Sao Paulo.
Post Race Quotes
Will Power #12 Verizon Wireless Team Penske Chevrolet
“ 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. (The final restart) was the key to winning. 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. Full credit to the Verizon guys, Chevy and Team Penske. These guys make it possible. We did it three for three.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay #28 Sun Drop/DHL Andretti Autosport Chevrolet
“The weather had been so up and down, so we didn’t know what to expect. (On final restart) I really challenged (Will Power) on the outside. I tried to get him but he had the inside and he raced clean. We’ve been right there on the podium three of the four races so we’re really happy going to Indy.”Takuma Sato
#15 Mi-Jack Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
“It is a fantastic feeling to finish third. It was an eventful race starting from the back of the grid. I needed to fight back so hard to get the positions back. The first part of the race was really hard, not necessarily on the overtaking but to follow the strategy, and at one stage we had a pit speed penalty but we gradually moved up. One-by-one we overtook cars which was very exciting. In the end, the restart got me into a great place; it was very exciting for me. There is always opportunity on a restart but you never know until you hit the brake because there is no plan basically. When Helio 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. Finally, after a difficult weekend, it is a relief to get this result and I am really pleased to bring the team a third place and see the first checkered flag of the season. It was a great day.”
Helio Castroneves #3 Penske Logistics Team Penske Chevrolet
“It was an awesome day in the Penske Logistics car. I received many messages on Twitter yesterday when people saw my frustration after qualifying inspiring me and they were the ones really driving me today. It was a great call today by John Erickson on the pit strategy and the car was good. I didn’t know how much damage was done to the front until I got out of the car, but it was a great race and I have to thank all my guys, Ron Ruzewski, John Erickson, and all the guys on my crew.”
Dario Franchitti #10 Lexar Media/Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
“Our Lexar car was very fast and we were pretty quick out there. We got hit on that restart and spun out but 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.”
Winner: Will Power by .9045 over Ryan Hunter-Reay
Speed: 88.945 mph
Race Time: 2:08.18
Lead Changes: 5 (Power-63, Dixon-8, Castroneves-2, Franchitti-1, Hinchcliffe-1)
Caution Laps: 15
Fastest Lap: 110.486 by Josef Newgarden, Lap 58
Fastest Lead Lap: 109.821 by Scott Dixon, Lap 62
Lap 12-Takuma Sato, Drivethrough for pit speed violation
Lap 19-Oriol Servia, Drivethrough for pit speed violation
Lap 21-Ana Beatriz, Drivethrough for pit speed violation
Lap 32-Graham Rahal, Drivethrough for pit speed violation
Lap 65-Ana Beatriz, Drivethrough for avoidable contact