IndyCar Preview: This Weekend's Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300
As we enter the final race before the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, drivers find themselves eager to win the race so coveted by Brazilian drivers.
Last year's race at Sao Paulo started off a little wet, but provided plenty of action afterwards. Marco Andretti was involved in a first-lap crash as the field entered the first tight corner.
With the double-file restarts this year, this turn is going to provide plenty of action. It will be interesting to see how the drivers approach that first turn, especially in the beginning of the race.
Will Power won the race last year, spoiling a Brazilian driver's celebration. This year, drivers are more eager to win on their "home track" before heading to Indy.
With the mess that could be waiting in turn one, drivers are really going to push it in qualifying, to make sure they are up front and out of the chaos.
Qualifying will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m., with the race beginning at noon on Sunday.
Pole Award: Dario Franchitti
Dario had the pole won last year, before Power was able to grab it in the closing minutes on better tires.
Dario knows that if he wants to stay at the top of the points standings, he is going to need to qualify well to stay out of trouble, especially going into the first turn.
If Power starts in front of him, Dario is going to have a tough time getting around him during the race (Note the Kellogg's special paint scheme for Dario this weekend).
First to Crash: J.R. Hildebrand
This is almost a random draw. As discussed earlier, there is probably going to be some trouble going into the first turn, especially if the drivers are starting side-by-side.
I will just base my pick on who I think will likely be in the middle of the pack here, and who will have the worst luck. That being said, there is a possibility that a big-name driver could land here.
5th: Helio Castroneves
All of the Helio talk this season has been bad. From the terrible mistake at Long Beach taking out his teammate Will Power, to the other accidents he has caused early in the season, nobody needs a solid finish no more than Helio.
Granted, he will probably be one of the favorites for the 500, but he will desperately be trying to get some positive momentum heading into Indy. (Note: another new paint scheme for Helio this weekend)
4th: Tony Kanaan
T.K. is probably the favorite Brazilian going into this race, and for good reason. For a guy that hasn't had much time with his new team, Kanaan has been lighting it up on the track.
Obviously, the veteran driver has the talent to get the job done, so don't be surprised to see him up front all day.
Qualifying will be a major determining factor on how his day will go. (Note: Tony will also trade in his normal colors for this race)
3rd: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Perhaps no one has had worse luck this season than Ryan. After being caught in a couple of accidents, and a mechanical failure while contending for the lead at Long Beach, his frustration level has to be boiling.
He had a fantastic race here last year, and seeing teammate Mike Conway get to Victory Lane in the last event has to motivate him even more. I expect to see Ryan on the podium when it's all finished.
2nd: Will Power
It's hard to pick against the defending race winner, and such a dominant road course driver in Power, but I have to do it this week.
While I do expect him to start up front, it will be interesting to see how the other drivers race him. He will probably be the favorite again this week, but I am going in a different direction.
Race Winner: Scott Dixon
It was difficult not to go with Ryan Briscoe or even the points leader, Dario Franchitti, in this one.
Instead, I am going with Dario's Target/Ganassi teammate to finally have a good run. Aside from his runner-up finish at Barber, Dixon hasn't had a great season so far.
He has been caught up in a couple of accidents, and doesn't want to see his teammate distance himself in the points standings.
Dixon knows a win here can give the team some great momentum heading back to Indianapolis, where he will attempt to win his second 500.
Dark Horse: Oriol Servia
Servia has been very impressive so far this season. Many people have been wondering if he is for real or not, but with a strong run here in Brazil, Servia could prove his success this season is no fluke.
He currently sits in fourth place in the point standings, and another solid run for him and the Newman/Haas team could really make things interesting.