Friday, April 27, 2012

Sao Paulo Indy 300 Preview

For third time, the IZOD IndyCar Series heads down to the Southern Hemisphere, where it's fall, not spring,   the rain tends to come early and often, and what sounds to be a capacity crowd will cheer drivers from Ana  Beatriz to Rubens Barrichello with a nationalistic sort of fervor. After three races of increasingly exciting racing with plenty of passing, it's time to see if Sao Paulo's streets can offer more of the same.

In any case, whether you've been unplugged the last couple of weeks or if you're just looking for a brief refresher, here are some of the big storylines going into the Sao Paulo Indy 300:

Weather: With thunderstorms forecast off and on throughout the weekend, we could easily be in for the same sort of monsoon we saw last year. If the race is soggy once more, expect a bit of a mess, some disparate strategies, and a chance to see who in the field is a wet-weather ace. With any luck, if there is rain, it won't be quite as bad as last year. Rain is interesting; a Great Flood that floats Charlie Kimball and his car away somewhere in the South Atlantic is not.

Homecoming: The race itself is apparently sold out, which is excellent news. Rubens Barrichello will make his first racing appearance in Brazil since joining INDYCAR, and Ana Beatriz joins Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves in returning to their native soil.

Can Honda Even The Score?: Honda teams received some excellent news yesterday evening when word came that their turbo change had been approved and upheld. Honda's single turbo should get quite the workout on the long straight of the Sao Paulo course, and you know after being humbled in Long Beach, they want/need a win here.If Scott Dixon, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Conway, Graham Rahal, or one of the other Honda drivers can win this weekend, it will make things seem much less one-sided heading into Indianapolis (although Chevy would still hold a 3-to-1 advantage in races won).

DRR's Last Lotus: Dreyer and Reinbold Racing will be running a Lotus at Sao Paulo, but it will be for the last time this season. As the manufacturer and racing team have gone their separate ways, DRR will be seeking to sign with another engine manufacturer (presumably Chevy), as Indianapolis lies just around the corner.

Meanwhile, with an engine transition of the own, Bryan Herta Autosport will be staying home from Brazil, but should hopefully have a deal with Honda signed in the near future. Hopefully, we'll hear some positive engine developments (as well as for Michael Shank's team) soon after the weekend.

TV Reminder: INDYCAR TV race coverage will start at 11am Eastern on Sunday, but most of the broadcast crew will be calling the race from a studio in Indianapolis. Only the resilient Kevin Lee will be on the ground, doing what he can to cover the long, long pit row of Sao Paulo. Don't expect  a precisely crisp broadcast, but they'll do their best.

Power Struggle: Yes, Will Power has won the last two races this year. However, he didn't run away with either, and overall, competition has been very strong. There have been some immensely good battles up front. If Power turns this into a simple cakewalk, I would be very surprised...

Pole: ...However, if I say Will Power will win the pole this weekend, is anyone going to argue?

Winner: Power has a great shot of making it a trifecta here, but I truly think Simon Pagenaud will get a victory this season. Let's call it for this week.

Dark Horse: Takuma Sato's strategy didn't pay off last year, but he's a wet weather warrior.

Last Blogger Standing: This week, the final five bloggers again can only watch and hope their selected driver finishes in the Top 10. Let's just say if Simon Pagenaud crashes out early, there's going to be some shamefaced bloggers skulking about, including yours truly:

Last Driver Standing Week 4 Picks

Chris Sheridan, IndySoup: Simon Pagenaud

Eric Hall, anotherindycarblog: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Kent M., Racing Mania: Tony Kanaan

Paul Dalbey, MoreFront Wing: Simon Pagenaud

Zachary Houghton, IndyCar AdvocateSimon Pagenaud

Next Week: We'll review the Sao Paulo race, hold a contest, and have a big community announcement to boot. The Month of May is going to be 100% USRDA Awesomesauce, count on it. Have a tremendous weekend, enjoy the race, and don't be shy in reminding people our sport kicks major butt, if they'd care watch.

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