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IZOD IndyCar Series: Previewing the Race at Sao Paulo

Eric SmithCorrespondent IIIApril 27, 2011

LONG BEACH, CA - APRIL 15:  Will Power of Australia, driver of the #12 Team Penske Dallara Honda, practices for the IndyCar Series Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15, 2011 on the streets of Long Beach, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Robert Laberge/Getty Images

It’s that day of the week again: Open Wheel Wednesday. 

The IZOD Indy Car Series will hit the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sunday for their final tune up before the Indianapolis 500.  This is the fourth of 17 races this season.  Penske’s Will Power and Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti have dominated the first three races. Franchitti leads the point standings by seven points heading into Sunday’s race.

Sao Paulo is the last road/street course event until the series heads to Toronto on July 10.  There are four straight ovals looming in the coming weeks, starting with the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

Every driver wants to head to Indy with great momentum, but none more than Will Power.  Power has struggled on oval tracks throughout his young career, and he essentially lost the IndyCar Series Championship last year in the final few races due to his difficulties on the ovals.  Dario Franchitti came from more than 50 points down in the final four races of the season to win his second-straight IndyCar Series Championship. 

With four straight ovals and a seven-point deficit, look for Power to come out and dominate in Brazil. He knows that he needs to get as many points as possible heading to the stretch of ovals.

Sao Paulo Event Facts:

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  • Sao Paulo Indy 300—Sunday May 1, Noon ET on Versus
  • Sao Paulo is an 11-turn, 2.536 mile street course.
  • This will be Sao Paulo’s second IZOD IndyCar Series race. Last year’s race was the inaugural event.
  • Lap Record: Dario Franchitti—1:27:7354 seconds in 2010
  • 2010 Pole Sitter—Dario Franchitti
  • 2010 Race Winner—Will Power

Last Year's Sao Paulo Indy 300 Recap

Last year’s race kicked off the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season.  Not only was it the first race on the series schedule, it was also the first time the IZOD IndyCar Series traveled to Brazil.

Heavy rain storms plagued the 2010 race.  As a result, it was stopped short after running 154 of the scheduled 190 miles.

Will Power took home the checkered flag in that inaugural race.  It was his first start since his scary 2009 incident at Infineon Raceway, which left him with two broken vertebrae in his back.  Coming home second was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was making his first start with Andretti Autosport.  Rounding out the podium was third-place finisher, and hometown hero, Vitor Meira. 

Meira was also making his first start since being injured.  It happened to be the same injury that sidelined Will Power.  Meira suffered his injury in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 when—in one of the oddest wrecks I have ever witnessed at the speedway—he made contact with Raphael Matos heading into Turn 1 and ended up rolling backwards on the wall at 200 mph.

Another big part of the race was the seven drivers from Brazil competing in the event.  Four of the seven—Ana Beatriz, Helio Castroneves, Mario Moraes and Mario Romancini—were from Sao Paulo.  That helped the race sell out and become a huge event in Brazil despite the rain-stricken day. 

The start of the race was very tricky because of a large amount of dust clouds that filled the track. The dust, which was caused by repairs that happened the night before, made heading into the first corner very hazardous.  Rookie and former Formula One standout, Takuma Sato, blindly misjudged the corner and hit Power's right wing, spinning him into Scott Dixon.  As a result, Helio Castroneves ran into Scott Dixon’s Honda, causing damage to both machines but not eliminating them from the race. 

Meanwhile, Mario Moraes ran over Marco Andretti’s Venom Energy Drink Honda, was thrown airborne and landed on top of Marco’s No. 26 machine.  Luckily, both drivers were able to walk away from the incident.

The rain caused many incidents on the track throughout the day, but Will Power triumphed over his first lap incident to take the inaugural win.

This Year's Prediction

As I stated earlier, be on the lookout for Will Power to try and earn maximum points this week.  He has qualified on the front row for the last 16 road/street course events.  Look for him to grab a front-row starting spot and dominate the race.

Another driver to watch for is the No. 14 AJ Foyt Enterprise Honda of Vitor Meira.  He currently sits 10 th in points and has a top-10 finish in all three races this year.  Sao Paulo is his hometown track, and with a third-place finish last year, look for him to compete for another top-5 finish.

Also knocking at Cinderella’s door this week will be Alex Tagliani.  He’s had a great season so far, sitting sixth in points, and does extremely well on street courses.  He started on the front row alongside Dario Franchitti last year, so listen for his name as a front-runner again this year.

My Top 5 Finishers Prediction:

1.      Will Power, No. 12

2.      Dario Franchitti, No. 10

3.      Alex Tagliani, No. 77

4.      Vitor Meira, No. 14

5.      Mike Conway, No. 27