Monday, April 30, 2012

Sao Paulo Post-Race Thoughts

With Sao Paulo in the books, my first thought is...May is finally here! Well, almost, but the next time the cars take to the track in anger is at the Brickyard in just four short weeks. I think this might be one of the craziest Mays in a long time.

Since the NBC Sports Network didn't have control of the feed and never could go "through the field", I'm going to do an abbreviated version and cover the top five, as well as a few news and notes.

Here we go:

Will Power. Clean sweep for the weekend: won the pole, led the most laps and won the race. Three wins in a row (and 4-for-4 for Team Penske) sends him into Indy on a major high. He is one of the best in the world right now on road courses, no doubt, but the next eight weeks will truly determine if he can step up to the title this year. Four of the next five are on ovals, so he needs to hold serve until we get back to the twisties (Belle Isle is between Indy and Texas) in July.

Ryan Hunter-Reay: Had a good look at Power on the final restart but settled into second place, and had it not been for the penalty suffered on the last lap at Long Beach two weeks ago he would have been looking at his third podium of the year. RHR is off to by far his best start to a season in his IndyCar career.

Takuma Sato: Taku was on the receiving end of Hunter-Reay's penalty two weeks ago that wiped out his first chance at a podium this year. This time, he sealed the deal and picked up a podium after finishing his first race of the year despite serving a penalty for speeding on pit road. He was the entertainment Sunday, starting 25th and making several daring moves into turn 1 to make passes.

 Helio Castroneves: Helio was the highest finishing Brazilian in fourth place after leading two laps during pit stops. Not one of his more impressive efforts this weekend after starting 18th and moving up the classification via pit stops and track position before getting around Dario Franchitti after the final restart. Has sort of come back to earth after winning at St. Pete and taking the pole at Barber, but again, that fourth win is waiting.

Dario Franchitti: Started second, finished fifth, both season-highs for the Scotsman. After spinning out and getting minor air after being hit from behind by Mike Conway and jumping the curb in turn 1 on an early restart, Franchitti easily moved up through the field. Has he righted the ship in time for Indy? Come on, we all know despite the disaster that has been the season so far that he will be a factor.

Points! Power maxed out with 53 points this weekend and moved out to a 45-point lead (180-135) over Castroneves while James Hinchliffe, who finished sixth on the day, improves two spots to third. Outside of Power, Hinch has been the most consistent driver in the series, making it to the final round of qualifying at each stop and finishing every race in the Top 6.

TV: I give the entire broadcast a B-minus. It could be lower but I give an A for effort because the broadcast team (with the exception of Kevin Lee, more on him later) was stuck in Indianapolis using Brazilian TV feed, which wasn't very good and they had little to work with. Lee was solid with his pit reporting and his boxing out of the Brazilian media to get a couple of questions with Will Power was classic live TV.
Overall thoughts: The race had a lot to live up to coming behind Barber and Long Beach, but equaling those two was a tall task. I thought the racing was decent behind Power, especially, as usual, from the mid-pack, where there were some great battles. Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello were especially racy in front of the hometown fans. Still, I was disappointed by a number of incidents that just involved boneheaded driving. Running 20 of 75 laps under yellow just kills the excitement level of the race.

So it is on to Indy...FINALLY! Tomorrow starts the best month of the year, and I have a feeling that this month will prove my point that the other 11 months of the year are just killing time between 500s.

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