Power wins rain-shortened IndyCar opener in Brazil
Will Power made a late overtaking move to take the lead from
Ryan Hunter-Reay to win the rain-shortened IndyCar season opener on
the streets of Sao Paulo on Sunday.
The Australian passed the American with three laps to go,
clinching the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300 for his second career
Power crossed the line 1.858 seconds ahead of Hunter-Reay when
the race ended at the two-hour time limit with only 61 of the 75
scheduled laps completed.
The race had to be red-flagged near its halfway point after
heavy rains made track conditions unsafe, marking another setback
for the track which was initially being hailed as one of the
highlights of the season but faced problems throughout the
Home crowd favorite Vitor Meira was third, followed by
compatriot Raphael Matos at the 2.6-mile, 11-turn Anhembi temporary
circuit in South America’s biggest city.
Danica Patrick lost control of her car as it started raining,
Power, whose other victory was last year in Edmonton, got out of
his car and celebrated with the thousands of fans packing the
grandstands of the stadium-like Sambadrome where the race took
“I feel awesome,” the Penske driver said. “We battled it out,
it was a great day.”
There were only about three minutes left when Power overtook
Hunter-Reay, breaking late to make the pass at the end of the long
The win was extra special for Power, who last year sustained a
season-ending back injury in a crash in Sonoma and only landed a
full-season deal with Penske late.
“It’s been a tough recovery,” he said. “I’m very grateful to
be given this opportunity. I laid in bed at the hospital and never
thought it was going to happen.”
Hunter-Reay dominated much of the race with his Andretti
Autosport car, but was not able to contend at the end.
“I had a blast all day,” said Hunter-Reay, who led for the
first time since Watkins Glen in 2008. “I had so much fun with
conditions changing all the time, that’s what racing is
Power’s Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe got past Hunter-Reay for
the lead late in the race, but he crashed with about 13 minutes
left after missing a corner. Both had been battling each other for
several laps until Briscoe lost control.
It was the first time in IndyCar Series history that the race
was run on the same day as qualifying, which was postponed from
Saturday because the front straight was too slick and drivers
complained it made racing unsafe. Officials added grooves to the
track overnight and fixed the problem in time for qualifying.
Defending series champion Dario Franchitti earned his 13th
career pole earlier in the day. He led the race after it was
interrupted, but eventually fell to seventh at the end after
sticking with rain tires longer than the other drivers.
The race had to be red-flagged when pouring rain created deep
puddles throughout the newly built street track.
Just before the red flag, Alex Tagliani – who led early in the
race – crashed with Brazil’s Tony Kanaan after being touched from
behind by Dan Wheldon.
The start of the race was marked by a scary incident involving
U.S. driver Marco Andretti, who escaped injury after his car was
hit from behind.
The car of Brazilian driver Mario Moraes finished on top of
Andretti’s and they slid tangled for several yards. The bottom of
Moraes’ car appeared to be touching Andretti’s helmet, and it took
more than five minutes for officials to remove Moraes’ car so the
medical team could attend to Andretti.
Andretti and Moraes were slowing down as other cars made contact
in front of them, including former Formula One driver Takuma Sato,
Franchitti’s teammate Scott Dixon, three-time Indy 500 Helio
Castroneves and even Briscoe.
It was extremely dusty where the grooves were added and dirt was
being constantly thrown into the air, causing visibility
The Sambadrome straight stretches for about a third of a mile
and was the only part of the track with concrete instead of
asphalt, which was what caused the grip problems and forced
officials to work overnight to allow drivers to race hard in
qualifying and the race.
The street circuit was set up in about three months and was
expected to be one of the highlights of the season, with the
Sambadrome and the series’ longest ever straight, which is just
short of a mile and allowed for a lot of overtaking on Sunday.
But the problems on the track this weekend dampened much of that
IndyCar officials were hoping for a clean race as the series
tries to expand in the United States and abroad, looking to carry
the momentum from a thrilling season a year ago when three drivers
reached the final race with a chance to take the title.