By Amy Konrath

Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights headlines:

1. Changes to Sao Paulo course should improve race
2. Sun Drop Citrus Soda to serve as co-primary sponsor of Hunter-Reay’s car for rest of 2011

1. Changes to Sao Paulo course should improve race: Alex Lloyd’s recent tweet — Make sure all your fillings are securely in place (paraphrased) — was sound advice for the five IZOD IndyCar Series drivers who will compete for the first time over 75 laps on the 2.6-mile street circuit in São Paulo, Brazil, this weekend.

Hopefully, according to circuit designer Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting, a bone-rattling racing surface won’t be an issue for the second visit of the series to South America’s largest city. Multiple city government-backed infrastructure upgrades have been completed for the benefit of competitors and spectators.

“The entire course has been paved, and unlike last year when we were really struggling with time this year it’s been paved with the Interlagos mix so the pavement will hold up much better,” said Cotman, referring to the permanent road course in the southern part of the state of São Paulo. “But it’s a difficult thing. You pave and one hour later there are cars running on it. One day later you’ve had 30,000 cars travel over it.”

Because of that heavy traffic – there are 7 million vehicles in use in the city — the event will be held on the weekend only.

Cotman is seeking a balance between the pavement being too smooth – “it would be too slippery for the cars; no grip” – and drivers losing their grip on the wheel because of unevenness. Additionally, crews have ground grooves in the concrete Anhembi Sambadrome (the permanent stadium section of the course that is chiefly used for the parades of Carnival) to alleviate the slippery conditions quickly discovered in the inaugural event.

Turn 1 (a left-hander exiting the Sambadrome straight) also is wider with more run-off area, and curbs have been removed from Turns 6, 7 and 9.

Such amendments could enhance the action (there were 93 passes in the 2010 race) on an 11-turn course that features multiple overtaking zones. The nearly mile-long backstretch is the longest on the series’ calendar, with a 180-degree right-hand turn at its terminal point.

“I think it’s great and the reason is you can pass,” said Team Penske’s Will Power, who won the race last year from Row 3. “Every circuit should be built with a massive straight like that because you don’t have to stress about being on pole. It doesn’t really matter where you qualify; you know you can get through the pack. You know you’ll be able to pass. I knew that if I was in that bunch at the end I would have a chance at winning. That’s what I love about that place.”

Power didn’t mind the bumpy racing surface, comparing it to the airport runway utilized as part of the St. Petersburg course.

“It added to the character how rough the surface was,” he said. “The main thing is how good the racing was.”

Added A.J. Foyt Racing’s Vitor Meira, who was the highest-finishing Brazilian (third) last year: “When I go to a street course I’m thinking they’re not for race cars but to serve the public so we are the ones who have to adapt to it, whether it’s bumpy or slippery or whatever to make a good show. I hope there are fewer bumps, but I don’t try to put any expectations on it and we have to adapt.”

2. Sun Drop Citrus Soda to serve as co-primary sponsor of Hunter-Reay’s car for rest of 2011: Dr Pepper Snapple Group and Andretti Autosport announced April 26 that Sun Drop Citrus Soda will join DHL as the co-primary sponsor of Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 entry for the remainder of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

Sun Drop, along with DHL, was positioned as the co-primary sponsor of the car driven by Ryan Hunter-Reay during the first three events of the season.

Sun Drop is part of a broader marketing effort employed by Dr Pepper Snapple Group with Andretti Autosport. Venom Energy Drink occupies the primary sponsorship position on the #26 car of Marco Andretti, while Snapple is an associate sponsor of both Andretti and Hunter-Reay.

“Our partnership with Dr Pepper Snapple Group is something we are very proud of and excited about,” said John Lopes, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Andretti Autosport. “Its iconic brands are a great fit with our program and we are grateful for the enthusiasm that everyone at Dr Pepper Snapple Group shows toward our team. Our mission is to continue developing unique and impactful programs that lift sales for brands such as Venom and Sun Drop among our fan base.”


The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle on May 1 on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The race will be televised live at noon (ET) by VERSUS and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. The next Firestone Indy Lights race is Firestone Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will be televised live by VERSUS.