PADDOCK TALK – As the IZOD IndyCar series heads to Indianapolis for the annual month of May, Will Power put his stamp of dominance on the first fourrounds of street/road course races with his third consecutive victory of the season on his way to his third straight Brazil win.
The Australian started from pole, and held off Ryan Hunter-Reay on two late restarts to claim his 18th open-wheel race victory and 16th in the IndyCar Series by 0.9045 seconds.
“I knew I had to go like you would not believe,” Power said of Hunter-Reay. “Ryan is one of the hardest guys you’ll ever race, he never gives up.”
There’s a big mutual respect between Hunter-Reay and Power as Hunter-Reay realized his opportunity for the race win would come as soon as the green flag waved again. “He (Power) raced me really clean and it was a lot of fun. I thought that was my time to do it there on the restart because he was getting such a great exit shot on so many corners,“ said Hunter-Reay. “I knew I had to do it early, so I jumped it (the restart) a little there to get him early but he had the inside.
Hunter-Reay did his best to put the pressure on the No.12 Chevrolet of Power but could not get enough of a jump to overpass the eventual race winner. Power simply stayed out front for the win and now holds a 45 point lead over Helio Castroneves (fifth).
On the second to last restart Mike Conway ran out of room on the very narrow turn one and abruptly hit the outside wall with James Hinchcliffe on his inside, which caused a huge pile up of eight cars. All those involved really had no where to go, but into each other.
Takuma Sato finally finished his first race of the season, be it four events into the 2012 season, but it came as his best IndyCar finish of his 38 race career, a podium third for the Honda Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing team. The Japanese and former Formula One driver was quite happy with his well overdue result. “I was confident that I would make the corner so I was very excited,” Sato said of his late restart pass. “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.”
Last year’s series champion Dario Franchitti had his best finish of the season, in a hard fought fifth place showing. Franchitti got turned sideways early on in turn one by Conway and went flying over the inside chicane narrowly missing his teammate, Scott Dixon. He managed to relatively clean the rest of the way and had a chance to finish on the podium, until Sato made a brave move on the second to last restart to slide pass the No.10 car before the big contact with nearly half of the field happened.
A total of 11 cars finished on the lead lap, the last being Oriol Servia in his Lotus powered car. Servia and his Dreyer & Reinbold team were not certain that they would even compete in the race, but through hard work and perseverance they not only made the grid but came through with a gutsy performance. “We almost didn’t make the start of the race. The guys did an amazing job,” Servia said. “They were working until the last second putting the engine together and we didn’t think that we were going to make it. Somehow we picked up the best result of the year and we’ll take it.” The very easy going Spaniard is now 117th in the points, the highest among Lotus drivers, five points ahead (64-59) to Sebastien Bourdais.
Ed Carpenter ran quite well throughout the race only to get punted out of the way in the ladder stages of the race by Ana Beatriz who ran her first race of the season for Andretti Autosport. Then under caution the cars ran through the red run off area by turn one while the safety crew attempted to get the cars back on track and Carpenter spun out on the wet apron, stalled the car in the process. Unfortunately for Carpenter it cost him quite a few spots as he finished three lap downs in 21st, although he remained calm and optimistic about his team’s progress. “There is no use being upset with the result here,” Carpenter said. “We will just focus on the progress and start getting ready to go win at Indy!”
Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins on Sunday May 13th and pole day for the biggest race of the season is a week later on May 19th. It will be interesting to see how many cars attempt to get into the field of 33 this year, not to mention how the Lotus powered teams will fair at the most famed speedway in the world.