By Allan Brewer, IndyCar correspondent
- Penske's Power earns 2nd win and points lead
- Rahal hangs on to earn 2nd place
- Briscoe takes 3rd for Team Penske
Power ends up on top after a two-day ordeal at Sao Paulo
It's great to get the lead back in the championship as we head to Indianapolis.
Team Penske's Will Power captured the victory and the IndyCar Series championship points lead, winning from pole in a rain-delayed, time-limited Indy 300 over the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
The win marks Power’s second win of the 2011 season and second in as many starts in Brazil, as he also won the inaugural race at the venue in 2010.
"It was an amazing race, with incredible conditions to deal with," said Power. "There was some spray (from water on the track), but not nearly as bad as Sunday."
"It was a great win for Verizon Team Penske. Early on in the race I bent my car when I hit the wall, but it really didn't seem to affect the handling too bad,” added Power. “Overall, it was a good weekend. It's great to get the lead back in the championship as we head to Indianapolis.”
Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal was second, followed by Power’s Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe. Dario Franchitti placed fourth and Oriol Servia of Newman/Haas Racing was fifth. Long Beach Grand Prix winner Mike Conway finished sixth.
Rahal had his own shares of problems but in the end, he placed the Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing car on the podium in second. “Overall, it was a great day for Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing. It was kind of the same thing as St. Pete when I won in ’08. That year, Will Power hit me and I spun, and because of that we got off sequence. Today, we were lucky that the No. 38 Service Central Honda was quick enough at the end and we were able to keep up with Will but not let Ryan Briscoe close in. We had to save a lot of fuel. I’m really proud of the Service Central guys.”
Briscoe commented, “It was good strategy and a good finish today for the Penske Logistics car,” said Briscoe. “We kept our nose clean. There was certainly a lot of havoc going on around me during a lot of the race. It was good to get past Dario (Franchitti) and hold him off at the end to bring home third and pick up some solid points. I was trying to catch (Graham) Rahal for second place, but we were doing about the same lap time. Overall, it was a great day for Team Penske and another good job by Will. I also have to say this was a great racing track. It’s one of the best street courses we’ll race on all year.”
The race was called on the 55th lap of a planned 75 laps when the two-hour time limit expired. The cars were on-track for 41 minutes the day prior.
Torrential rainstorms drove racers and racecars from the 2.6-mile course after only 14 completed laps and postponed the remainder of the race until Monday morning. Power was leading at the time.
A crash involving Andretti Autosport driver Danica Patrick, KV Racing Technology-Lotus' Tony Kanaan, Penske’s Helio Castroneves and HVM Racing's Simona de Silvestro brought out an early yellow flag as the cars entered the first turn of the first lap of the race. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who started second, suffered a spin and rear wing damage as well.
Attempts to resume the race Sunday afternoon were futile, and the race resumed Monday morning just past 8 a.m. ET.
While the race restarted today with the field on slick tires, this was short-lived with rain once again falling on the circuit. The field dove into pit lane to switch over to rain tires.
Despite the conditions, only three more caution periods slowed the field. The first was on lap 22 when both Sebastien Bourdais and Hunter-Reay had incidents.
Bourdais nosed into the turn four tire barrier, ending both his race and his initial four-race return to the IndyCars after a four-year absence. Hunter-Reay must have felt a sense of déjà vu as he looped his car in nearly the identical spot as he did Sunday, past turn eight. The American pitted to repair rear wing damage and replace his second one with one from his teammate Conway.
On the lap 26 restart, Takuma Sato edged ahead of Power to take the lead with a bold outside pass into turn one. This marked the first time the Japanese driver for KV Racing Technology-Lotus held the point in an IndyCar Series event.
Almost immediately the field went back under yellow for Raphael Matos going off at turn four. After three laps of yellow, the field resumed green on lap 29.
Sato held the lead through the eventual final round of stops for most of the field after the final caution of the race, when Alex Tagliani went off at turn eight on lap 34. Just before that, Franchitti missed turn one and nosed into the tire barriers in the chicane complex. The Scotsman engaged reverse and resumed with only minimal wing damage.
Most of the field pitted except Sato, teammate E.J. Viso, Marco Andretti and Sebastian Saavedra.
Rahal stopped multiple times under the caution flag to top off his car. The young American had spun on lap 26 and dropped to the rear of the field, but the extra fuel allowed his strategy to work of advancing to the front when the leaders stopped.
Viso’s drive from last place on the grid up to second was thwarted when he received a black flag for defending his position on Andretti into turn five. The Venezuelan driver pitted twice, once to serve his penalty and again to top off fuel to go to the finish. Andretti also pitted, and switched over to the alternate dry-weather slicks on a damp, drying track. He fell out of contention. The final results showed Viso 13th, Andretti 14th.
Sato dropped down the order with his own stop, leaving the path clear for Power to set sail to his second win of the season. Sato finished an unrepresentative eighth.
The victory moved Power to 11 wins for his career, all on road or street courses, and into a 14-point lead ahead of Franchitti in the championship points standings.
Power commented after the two-day race: “The only thing is, I wish we could've raced yesterday in front of a full house of fans. The promoters have done such a great job with this circuit and it would've been nice to put on a good show for the fans yesterday. I'm sure the fans that were here today enjoyed the race and it will be great to come back to defend our win here next year."
The next race is the 95th Indianapolis 500, the centennial event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race is scheduled for a noon EDT start on Sunday, May 29th.