Power returns with Sao Paulo victory

Will Power returned to the IndyCar Series in triumphant form, winning the Sao Paulo Indy 300 after suffering a broken back during practice at Infineon Raceway last August. Power drove his Verizon Team Penske No. 12 past Ryan Hunter-Reay in the IZOD No. 37 with just over three minutes remaining in what became a timed race after rain stopped the race for 36 minutes.

Will Power, Team Penske.
Photo by Indy Racing League.

After passing Hunter-Reay, Power turned his fastest lap of the race, crossing the finish line 1.8581 seconds ahead of Hunter-Reay.

"It's been a day where everything was thrown at you," said Power. "It was probably the most mixed up race that I have ever been in, but it created an opportunity for me to come back through the field and end up winning the race. I'm just glad to come out on top."

Hunter-Reay, who led for the first time since winning at Watkins Glen in 2008, said "It's disappointing to finish second but we had a blast. This is a great way to start the season."

He led a total of 20 laps. Once in the lead, Will Power led four.

The race started with a first turn incident when Takuma Sato lost control of is no. 5 KV Racing Technology machine, making contact with Will Power and Scott Dixon. Helio Castroneves was also involved in the initial incident, coming together with Dixon.

Further back in the pack, Mario Moraes hit Marco Andretti from behind as Andretti swerved to miss the wreckage. Moraes' car shot into the air, coming to rest atop Andretti's machine. "The start was very dusty and drivers in front of me were braking early into Turn One," said Moraes. "When I applied the brakes I lost the rear and hit another car ending my race on the first lap."

Will Power continued in tenth place while Dixon and Castroneves continued after getting restarted.

Andretti was checked by the medical staff and released.

Dario Franchitti led from the pole with Tagliani and Ryan Hunter-Reay in tow but the field reported to the pits when a Milka Duno crash brought out a full course caution. Having pitted on lap 20, Simona de Silvestro was the only driver to stay out.

De Silvestro stayed at the point for four laps. Ryan Hunter-Reay moved passed Dario Franchitti soon after the green flag and immediately pressured de Silvestro. Hunter-Reay made a bold move over the bumpiest part of the track, his car nearly going airborne as he pushed into the lead.

As rain started to fall, Dan Wheldon drove into the back of Alex Tagliani, who was running in the top five. Tagliani was shoved into Tony Kanaan's car, knocking the Brazilian into a run-off zone.

After the race Wheldon apologized for the incident. "Tag had a bit of a bobble coming onto the straight and I got a really good run; he defended a little bit and I was going to look to the inside, but decided to pull in just a touch, and when I braked I hit a really big bump and it just lifted my front wheels off the ground. When that happens you can't stop."

Tagliani was unable to continue while Kanaan dropped one lap down by the time he rejoined the race. Tagliani was credited with 19th, while Kanaan managed to get his lap back, finishing tenth.

Rain intensified, completely changing the complexion of the race. The field split, half coming to the pits at the first opportunity, while leader Hunter-Reay continued.

Opting to stop on the next lap, Hunter-Reay was able to stop for rain tires and maintain his lead.

With several cars spinning under the full course caution and rain knocking out communications, including timing and scoring, the race was red flagged.

Before the green racing resumed, Hunter-Reay, Briscoe, Power, Matos, Wheldon and Meira reported to the pits for slicks. This would prove to be the right decision as Franchitti, who inherited the lead, would finish seventh, just behind his Target Ganassi teammate Scott Dixon.

With 20 minutes to go, Briscoe erased Hunter-Reay's six second advantage and applied intense pressure. Briscoe's first pass for the lead looked effortless, but Hunter-Reay returned the favor a few corners later.

With 15 minutes to go, the roles reversed again with Hunter-Reay dishing the heat. It wasn't long before Briscoe missed a corner and nosed into a tire barrier, giving Hunter-Reay the lead and the full course yellow he needed to make it to the checkered without conserving fuel.

The restart favored Hunter-Reay but Power reeled in him, taking the lead with three minutes to go.

The last green segment saw Raphael Matos running third, leading a train consisting of Meira, Wheldon, Dixon, Conway and Franchitti.

In the last five minutes, Meira was able to pass Matos for third, posting the best finish for a Brazilian. Meira was driving the ABC Supply A.J. Foyt Racing No. 14 for the first time since breaking his back in an accident at the Indy 500 in May.

"It couldn't be much better than that," said Meira. "I think Will (Power) can relate to it with a back injury and all that, it gets pretty uncertain at some times and having a team behind you making sure that the seat is available, makes a big difference during the recovery. This is the start of the big thank you I have to give to A.J. (Foyt) and ABC Supply. I hope we get better. We overcame a lot here."

Matos managed to hold off Dan Wheldon to finish fourth.

NOTES:

For the first time in IndyCar Series history, qualifying was held on the same day as the race. Dario Franchitti qualified on the pole. Fazzt Racing team co-owner Alex Tagliani started from the outside front row in the team's debut.

Qualifying was postponed from Saturday when the concrete straight through the Sambadrome proved to be too slippery. The one-third mile section was machined overnight with Davey Hamilton testing the freshly ground track with the two-seater early Sunday morning. Reports from the track indicated that Hamilton was on track as early as 5 a.m. "I've never been in a race car at that time of the day," said Hamilton. "The good thing is the (grinding) worked and it was all worth it."

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Lotus-Cosworth Honda-Dallara? KV Racing Technology has entered into a technical and commercial partnership with Lotus and Cosworth. Starting at St. Petersburg, Takuma Sato's No. 5 IndyCar will sport the classic green and yellow livery made famous by Lotus in the 1950s and '60s.

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Recent Indy Lights graduate Mario Romancini will start his first IndyCar Series race on a circuit located 15 minutes from his boyhood home. Helio Castroneves, Ana Beatriz and Mario Moraes all hail from Sao Paulo.