Monday, May 6, 2013

Brazil Notes; Or, Stunner In Sao Paulo

-Let's just start with the admission that the Sao Paulo Indy 300 was one of the best street races in, well, let's just say decades. Despite seven cautions, the race never dragged, and passing wasn't just possible, it was prevalent, especially in the middle and end of the event. James Hinchcliffe's last-lap, last-turn pass will be on highlights reels for years to come. We didn't get another first-time winner, but it was simply incredible racing, and kept us guessing until the last possible second. I'm just going to come right out and say it: for unpredictability, closeness of racing, parity, and pure on-track action, this has been the best IndyCar season in a long time.

-Of course, some of the post-race discussion revolved around Sato's defending or blocking (depending on your point of view) versus Josef Newgarden and then James Hinchcliffe. Race Control let it go, however, which obviously elicited some comment online. For my part, I thought it was a veteran racer trying (successfully) to get away with as much as he could. Now, if someone gets called for blocking at Detroit, I'm sure we'll hear an earful from the penalized party. For now, though, I'm ok with letting it play out. It's a fine line between letting cars race and ensuring a race doesn't turn into a parading, lumbering block-fest. I'm glad I'm not Beaux Barfield and Co.

-As for Sato himself, blocking/defending drama aside, he's been close to perfect these last two races, despite running on worn-out tires at the end of Sunday's race. More and more, this is looking like anything but a fluke win. I was excited to see his effort at Indy before; now I absolutely cannot wait. The resurgence of AJ Foyt Enterprises this year is such a fun story, and I don't see why it can't keep going at Indy. 

That was a pretty fantastic start to May.
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
-I have to admit, with Marco Andretti having a career best result of P14 at Sao Paulo, I wasn't sure how he'd react to the possibility of another brutal weekend there. As it turned out, there was no reason to be worried. Marco didn't have a particularly good early stint in the race, but he roared back and did his part to make those last 20 laps some of the best we've seen. I really like where he is going into Indianapolis. It could be his time.

-Without a doubt, massive kudos are in order to Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, and Oriol Servia for also contributing to a fantastic race. Pags came back from issue after issue to threaten for the podium, Newgarden just missed out on his first podium (and grabbed his first Top 5!) after starting dead last, and Oriol Servia showed why he's still one of the best and cleanest in this business. That's a good group of guys to cheer for--especially Servia, who I'm sure will get a big welcome at Indy and be a crowd favorite. No one wants the guy in P8 and in championship striking distance to have his season end early. Still crossing my fingers that there's some May magic there for Servia and the great people at Dreyer and Reinbold.

-This race was an absolute disaster for some title contenders (Will Power, who is poor 500 away from being out of the Top 20 in points), just holding serve for others (Ryan Hunter-Reay's P11 could have been much better--or much worse), but also a massive boost for guys like Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti. With a big bucket of points available at Indianapolis, some title contenders could take a massive jump forward--or see their position dwindle away.

-If you thought the NBC Sports broadcast was a little rough in parts yesterday, remember they were working with the feed from Brazil, and Kevin Lee was essentially the only boots on ground (tasked with covering a massive area). Given that, I thought Leigh Diffey and Townsend Bell especially did a great job of providing tremendous enthusiasm for the race. 

-How about that crowd noise for Tony Kanaan? Both of his passes for the lead were met with massive cheers, and you got a sense of just how popular of a driver he is in his native Brazil. Seeing him slowing down and bringing out the yellow late was a tough blow, but I'm still impressed just how strong his run was up to that point, especially considering he's been dealing with an injured right hand. Not every ending can be storybook, but it was still something to remember. He'll have another very supportive crowd later this month as he chases after that elusive Indy 500 win. 

-Other Notes: What a horrendous outing for Will Power. The way he was passing cars before his own caught fire, I thought he was going to come back and at least grab a podium. The snakebit season continues...Charlie Kimball had a quiet day, but still managed a very nice P10. I still think he's got a very good chance to end up Top 10 in points this year. We know he can get the result, now waiting to ensure the consistency is there....EJ Viso's turnaround this year has been excellent. He couldn't find the podium Sunday, but he didn't try to do too much and stayed clean in a very messy race. There's a reason why he's currently tied for 10th in points...What a tough break for Ana Beatriz in front of a home crowd. There's that exhaust issue for Honda again...IndyCar Advocate will be gearing into May Mode, meaning a busier posting and update schedule. I'll try not to spam!...Don't forget Talk of Gasoline Alley and Trackside will begin their regular Month of May broadcast schedule tonight! Check here for details, listen live link, and podcast download.

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