Will Power hopes a shower of April victories can lead to a quart of milk in May. The Team Penske driver won the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle to score his third consecutive victory of the season and the third in a row at the Anhembi circuit.
Power, driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car, held off Hunter-Reay on a Lap 71 restart and won by 0.9045 of a second. Takuma Sato, who started 25th because of an unapproved Honda engine change and overcame a Lap 12 pit lane speed violation penalty, earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series podium finish.
Power is the first driver since Scott Dixon in 2007 to win three consecutive races (Watkins Glen, Nashville, Mid-Ohio).
Power inherited the point when Dixon pitted under caution on Lap 64, held off Hunter-Reay on the Lap 67 restart, which quickly turned into a Turn 1 parking lot that collected, among others, Dixon. Recognizing possibly his final opportunity to overtake Power, Hunter-Reay moved to the outside in Turn 1 of the Lap 71 green flag.
Helio Castroneves overtook front-row starter Dario Franchitti on that restart to finish fourth. Franchitti’s No. 10 Lexar Media car for Target Chip Ganassi Racing was bumped from behind on a Lap 26 restart in Turn 1 to drop to 22nd.
James Hinchcliffe, JR Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball — rookies in 2011 — finished ahead of E.J. Viso in ninth and Barrichello in 10th.
ITAIPAVA SAO PAULO INDY 300 PRESENTED BY NESTLE POST-RACE QUOTES:
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, winner Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 Presented By Nestle): “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.”
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Coastal.com Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports): “”It was a long day but the good point was that we were able to get the car right for the race. We had a really strong race car. It was our first time here in Sao Paulo and it took us a little while to understand what was needed but I was really, really happy in the race car. We were making progress until I had to go through the run off and basically lose a lot of positions. Everything went down hill from there. We got hit. I lost my wing twice. Then in the end, we lost a lap when we were collected in that last wreck. If there is a wreck in front of you in the chicane, there is no way to avoid it. It’s a shame and that’s why we need to start ahead of the pack.”
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 Team GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, finished sixth): “It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, I’d say. We had a decent starting position but the first stint was shocking. We didn’t have the right car for the really slick conditions in the beginning and we fell like a stone; we had a bit of a slow first stop and it set us even further back, so we were really struggling. It’s a credit to these Go Daddy guys, ya know, we just never give up. 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. It’s all perspective. If you had told us before the race started that we were going to finish sixth I would have been pretty disappointed, but if you told me after the first (pit) stop that we were going to finish sixth I probably would have been pretty pleased with that. We’ll take the finish and take the points – if we’re not thrilled with a sixth-place finish that means we’re doing something right.”
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Itaipava/GEICO/ Mouser Electronics KV Racing Technology Chevrolet): “Unfortunately, our strategy didn’t work out the way we wanted because of the number of yellow flags. That is racing. If everything had played out the way we envisioned we would have been in the top-five. It’s a shame, but it is always fun to race in front of the Brazilian fans. I want to thank them and my sponsors for supporting me. From here we go to Indy, which is the most important race of the season and we looking for a good result in a race I have been close to winning, but never have.”
JR HILDEBRAND (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet, finished seventh): “I’m stoked for the guys because I had left something on the table during qualifying this weekend, and I really wanted to get out there and hustle it and pick off some guys and get us up to the front. And through some good strategy calls and a good National Guard Chevy we were able to do that and it was a lot of fun. This track, especially now with the different engine manufacturers – and the car is more sensitive when you take downforce out – lends itself to being able to make some passes out there. You combine that with the difference between the red and black Firestone tires and it made for a really exciting race. It certainly was for us. I know all of us at Panther are happy to come away from here with a solid Top 10 and head into the month of May in the top 10 in the points standings.”
TAKUMA SATO (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, finished third): “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.”
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Chevrolet, finished second): “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.”
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda): “I guess that just wasn’t our day. The Target car definitely had some speed but we just couldn’t put it all together.”
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Lexar Media 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.”
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing Lotus): “It was difficult for sure. I think we ran pretty good in practice this morning and we were looking forward to having a good race. The guys on the team have been doing a great job and working really hard. I feel bad for them that we couldn’t finish the race. Now we just have to go back and work hard to get everything working right for Indy.”
ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet): “Today was a tough day to swallow. We had a great race going and, then to get spun out, just made it look like a bad day. There is no use being upset with the result. We will just focus on the progress and start getting ready to go win at Indy.”
KATHERINE LEGGE (No. 6 TrueCar Dragon Racing Lotus): “The Lotus teams were struggling to find speed down the long straightaways here, so we were simply focusing on the areas of the car we can control. We managed to fix a braking issue that’s been plaguing us, as well as some other improvements to keep us competitive with the other Lotus teams. We are working well together as a team and really starting to gel. I am very happy to be working with Brandon and the rest of my crew.”
RUBENS BARRICHELLO (No. 8 BMC/ Embrase – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, finished 10th): “When you are in 16th place and at the end of the race you gain six positions you have to feel better. However, I have to say I did not understand the race. I was running third or fourth and all of a sudden I was 17th. We did have a few problems with the pit stops, but strategy was such a big factor this afternoon. In fact, when I saw Dario (Franchitti) after the race I stop to talk to him and asked him when you should spin so you can come in a take fuel. I just want to thank all the Brazilian fans for coming out to the race. I gave my very best today. Unfortunately, because of all the cautions flags our strategy didn’t work out today but it will out some other day.”
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Penske Logistics Chevrolet, finished fourth): “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.”
E.J. VISO (No. 5 CITGO/PDVSA – KV Racing Technology Chevrolet, finished ninth): “Another top-10 finish is always a good thing especially when I am looking for championship points. It was a bit of a sweet and sour weekend. We were not as fast as we expected in qualifying, however we had a strong race. Unfortunately, there were several strategies used today and ours didn’t pay off the way we hoped. We all acknowledge that it was a difficult situation with the weather constantly changing and the number of yellow flags due to accidents. I think we had a car that was good enough to finish in the top-five and want to thank the crew and my engineer for doing a great job.”
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team RC Cola Chevrolet): “We were there in the end and were coming for Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) and got caught up in wreck and dropped back to 20th and managed to get back up to 14th by the end. We were slow on the straights anyway and that’s where I lost all my time. There were guys I couldn’t see yet in my mirrors and then they were by me by the end of the straight – there was nothing I could do. If we had finished sixth or seventh it wouldn’t have been terrible – another bummer day for the RC Cola boys but we’re coming ready for Indy.”
ANA BEATRIZ (No. 25 Team Ipiranga Chevrolet): “The race result didn’t show our potential. We ran in the top 10 and were consistent. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the beset speed on the straights and were being beaten by the other guys. But we were good on the corners so I’m happy to accomplish running in the top five. It was a shame being penalized twice and being involved in that last accident because I’m sure we had a great chance to finish in the top 10 with the Ipiranga car.”
CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Honda, finished eighth): “What an interesting race. No corner went without some sort of contact. The Novo Nordisk team did a fantastic job today. Great pit stops and I’m thrilled to have a career-best finish here in Brazil. On to Indianapolis.”
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central Honda): “Overall it was a tough day for the Service Central team. We couldn’t catch a break today and things just did not go our way. We had a fast car but I guess it wasn’t our day.”
From Amy Konrath, INDYCAR