Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Brazil Wrap-Up

By now plenty of the superlatives have been spoken about Sunday's Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300, but still I think there is room for more. Yes, that's how great of a race it was. I mean, when people have talked about the last 10 laps of the race, they are invoking the 1990s for crying out loud!

When you start dipping your toe into those sacred times (#sarcasm) you are onto something. I kid...through the field the racing was about as good as it can get. While the twisty circuit does lead to at times some fugly incidents (and there were seven cautions in the first 56 laps), the two long straightaways are perfect for this car.

And while we are at it, can we put any criticisms of the DW-12 to bed? And if you have any left, get over it. This car is producing some of the best racing in the world right now.

Anyway, on to the good stuff:

Winner: James Hinchcliffe. Hinch's feast-or-famine season continues. He now has two wins this season (and in his career thanks) adding Brazil to his victory at St. Pete a few weeks ago, to go along with a crash at Long Beach and a DNF at Barber. This kind of bounce back race is certainly an indication of a more confident driver, if you compare it to last year where some adversity started to send Hinch's season south.

Sunday he was very Rick Mears-ian, saving his car and letting the race come back to him. While Takuma Sato and Josef Newgarden were battling like hell in front of him, he worked himself into the fight and had the strongest car at the end.

When it came time to go, he went, taking advantage of a Sato bobble on the final corner of the final lap to squeeze his way by and take the victory, and in the process becoming the first race winner to lead just the last lap since Dan Wheldon at Indy in 2011.

Runner-up: Takuma Sato. Meet your new points leader. Yes it's true, Taku sits on top of the standings one-fifth of the way through the season. The way he has driven this season proves that he is indeed for real, and while I don't think Sato has the mettle to stay on top for the entire season, he isn't going away either.

Of course, his finish wasn't without controversy, as he was reviewed a couple of times by race control for blocking both Newgarden and Hinchcliffe. In my opinion, he threw a block on both guys at one time or another, that is indisputable. At the same time, what should have been done about it? I honestly don't know. Lots of people argue that if it is a block on Lap 1 it should be a block on the last lap, too, but do we really want Beaux Barfield settling races, or do we want to see guys fight it out on their own on the track? Barfield is in a tough spot on that one, and I think he did the right thing.

Third place: Marco Andretti. Meet your driver that is second in points. Again, just another example of what has made this season awesome. After so many years of what came across as bored indifference, Marco is driving with the passion we have come to expect from members of his family. No doubt he drove super-hard, and put himself in a couple of tight spots, but he just keeps going out there and putting up solid numbers. Heading into Indy, he couldn't ask for anything more -- well, I guess he would've liked a win by now, but he's probably more than happy to wait another 19 days for that one.

With three wins in the first four races, odds are an Andretti Autosport driver will win the 500, and Marco is sure ramping it up like he thinks it is his time.

Fourth place: Oriol Servia. Mega props to Oriol and the entire Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team. After announcing last week that DRR would be unable to continue this season after Indy, the go out and put together a solid day that in the closing laps looked like a possible podium. Pretty amazing. But Servia is a pro's pro, and as a long-time participant in they IndyCar series DRR has a lot of pride, and that really shone through on Sunday.

And let's not shut off the lights on these guys just yet. Servia finished 6th at Indy in 2011 and drove like a madman to battle back from a lap down and come home 4th last year. If I had to pick a darkhorse winner of the 500, Oriol would be my guy.

Fifth place: Josef Newgarden. What a charge through the field by Newgarden, who started 25th and was in the mix and fighting it out with Sato down the stretch. He eventually wore his tires down to the nubbies and was later passed by Hinch, Marco and Servia, but it was still a great drive for him. Josef has had a lot of pressure put on him by the fanbase since day one, but he is starting to get better every week. Don't forget, he has only made 19 IndyCar starts, he is still learning and confidence is a big part of racing (heck, any pro sport). He is starting to build that confidence base.

A few others: Dario Franchitti finished P7 and jumped over 10 drivers in the points and sits at P15. Still a long way to go...Simona De Silvestro finished P9 to add that to her P6 and P8 finishes at St. Pete and Long Beach...Helio Castroneves had an interesting day that included a dust up with three other cars midway through the race. Though he finished P13 he is still third in the standings...Tony Kanaan led twice for 12 laps and had his Brazilian countrymen whipped into a frenzy, but dropped off the pace and later ran out of fuel and finished 21st...And then we come to Will Power, who's season to forget continues. A fire onboard his car put him out of the race just 17 laps in and he finished second to DFL in 25th. He sits P18 in points and outside of Belle Isle next month is looking at a long next two months.

What's next? It's three weeks before the series races again at a little oval on the corner of 16th and Georgetown in Indianapolis. No doubt the powers that be scheduled that race as a sort of home game since the track is right across from the IndyCar offices.

Who am I kidding? I love the entire series, but now it's on. Got milk?

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