By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. Streaking Power takes point lead to Indianapolis
2. Sato scores first podium
3. Inside the Box Score – Sao Paulo
1. Streaking Power takes point lead to Indianapolis: The champagne wasn’t flowing yet in Victory Circle when Will Power, winner of the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle for the third consecutive year, was speaking of his next objective.
“I’m very happy to get that third win (in Brazil) and third in a row,” said Power, who prevailed April 29 in the Chevrolet-powered No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car on the temporary street course by 0.9045 of a second over Ryan Hunter-Reay. “We need to make it four in a row. The most important race is next.”
That, of course, is the 96th Indianapolis 500, and drinking from a quart of milk over a magnum of champagne in Victory Circle has been Power’s goal since early in his junior formula driving days.
Opening Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is May 12, and the May 27 race will mark to the date the 40th anniversary of Team Penske owner Roger Penske’s first Indianapolis 500 triumph when Mark Donohue drove the McLaren/Offy to victory. Penske-owned cars have earned 15 race victories and 16 poles – both records – in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Power has a best finish of ninth in four trips to the Speedway, but enters the first oval event of the season on a roll. The victories on the Barber Motorsports Park road course (from ninth on the starting grid), the Long Beach street circuit (from 12th on the grid) and the Sao Paulo street course (from the pole) – coupled with bonus points for two pole starts and leading the most laps in Brazil – have staked Power to a 45-point lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings.
“I’ll just keep the head down, try to enjoy it, enjoy my race,” said Power, who has entered the Month of May the past four year with most recent finishes of first (Brazil), 12th (Kansas), second (Long Beach) and 27th (Kansas). “You need a bit of luck, good strategy, no mistakes, and that’s how you win races.”
Power recorded No. 18 of his career on the 2.536-mile, 11-turn street course in front of an enthusiastic crowd, and has won five of the past 10 races spanning two seasons to set himself up for another run at the series title.
“When I look at the last two seasons, the first one of the last two is definitely a weakness on ovals,” he observed. “But I would say last year that wasn’t the case. It was just bad results were really bad.”
One potentially bad Indianapolis 500 omen for Power though: In 95 races, car No. 12 has won once (Peter DePaolo in a Duesenberg in 1925).
2. Sato scores first podium: Two weeks ago at Long Beach, Takuma Sato was a few turns from potentially earning his first IZOD IndyCar Series podium finish. But a bump and run by Ryan Hunter-Reay, which didn’t escape the view of Race Control, dropped the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver to eighth.
Fast forward to the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle, where it didn’t appear Sato would have a chance at a podium spot after starting 25th of 26 cars because of an unapproved engine change after practice April 28 and incurring a drive-thru penalty for a pit lane speed violation on Lap 12.
But that’s exactly what the third-year IZOD IndyCar Series driver did over the course of 75 laps on the 2.536-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
“It is a fantastic feeling to finish third,” he said. “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.
“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.”
3. Inside the Box Score – Sao Paulo: Numbers to note following the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle, the fourth of 16 events of the 2012 IZOD Indy Car Series season.
2 – Drivers who have finished in the top 10 in each of the first four IZOD IndyCar Series events: Will Power and James Hinchcliffe.
3 – Races in a row won by Power, the longest win streak in Indy car racing since Scott Dixon won three-straight races in 2007…Consecutive races won by Will Power in Sao Paulo…Drivers who have completed every lap of every race in 2012: Power, Hinchcliffe and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
4 – Different teams represented in the top five of the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle
6 – Different teams represented in the top 10 in the IZOD IndyCar Series standings.
7 – Different drivers to finish on the podium in the first four races of 2012.
12 – Consecutive races led by Will Power dating to 2011.
22 – Positions gained by Takuma Sato en route to his first podium in IZOD IndyCar Series and most of any of the 26 drivers.
39 – Positions gained by Oriol Servia in the first four races of 2012.
45 – Points separating Power (180) and Helio Castroneves (135) in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings.
109 – Top five finishes for Dario Franchitti in his Indy car racing career. Franchitti passed Gordon Johncock for ninth on the all-time list.
111 – Laps led by Will Power in 2012. Power has led 32 percent of the laps this season.
185 – Consecutive Indy car starts for Tony Kanaan dating to the 2001 CART race in Portland.
52,000+ – Fans who attended the the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on race day, according to information released by the event promoter.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indianapolis 500 Mile on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by ABC at 11a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network at Noon (ET).