The running joke this week, of course, has been that everyone has forgotten about the Sao Paulo Indy 300. With the Indy 500 around the corner, it might be easy to get ahead of ourselves, but make no mistake, there is an actual IndyCar race this weekend, and it should be a good one. Oh, and if you're reading this before 10am ET Friday, don't forget those fantasy picks.
Of course, all eyes are on Will Power, as he goes for his fourth straight Sao Paulo win after year-long victory drought, but that's hardly the only thing to pay attention to in Brazil. Here are a few of the storylines to follow this weekend:
Course Tweaks: Sao Paulo will be a slightly different course this time around with Turns 1 and 2 adjusted to facilitate more passing. There's also been some smoothing of bumps on the course. We should see lap times fall accordingly.
Dry Brazil: Everyone knows, the Sao Paulo race is always rainy. However, the most recent forecast is still showing practically no chance of rain for the weekend. Usually, rain is a big surprise and adjustment. This time, it might seem like the opposite.
Tire Change: Firestone is using 2012 specification tires this weekend, which could throw some teams for a loop on setup. It’ll be fun to see who’s able to dial things in early, and which teams struggle with the change this weekend.
Sato Sequel?: I don’t know about you, but I haven’t come all the way down from the Takuma Sato/Foyt victory at Long Beach. Happily, they’ll get a chance to do it all again this week, as a team that’s feeling pretty good about itself is coming to a track where both team and driver have had some success. I’m pretty sure that if Taku can make it happen.
Brazilian Rock Stars: It’s not the normal lineup of superstars for this race, as Tony Kanaan, Ana Beatriz, and Helio Castroneves get another chance to race in their homeland. You have to think it would be very nice for TK and Bia’s sponsors especially to get a great result here, but either way, you can bet the Brazilian drivers will be the most popular autograph of the weekend. It would be especially nice to see Bia get things going in Sao Paulo, wouldn’t it?
Dragon Doldrums: Dragon Racing has not had a good year so far, let’s just get that out in the open. Whether it’s mechanical or crash-related, there hasn’t been a good weekend for the team yet. Sebastien Bourdais is mired back in 18th, and Sebastian Saavedra is in dead last among series regulars. Neither driver has a particularly good result to point to at Sao Paulo, though Saavedra did manage a P11 back in 2011 with Conquest (his best finish of that rough rookie year). Marshall Pruett’s article this week pointed to the new tires as a possible culprit, though with the series racing on 2012 spec tires this weekend, it’s tough to tell just how this will play out. One thing’s for sure, and that’s Dragon could use a really nice result Sunday.
Contenders or Pretenders?: You know what’s great? Right now, there’s a jumbled, crazy mess at the top of the IndyCar standings, and I have no earthly idea who will rise or fall this week. For every Castroneves and Dixon, you have a Sato and Wilson, drivers from teams not used to that rarified air. For all we know, someone else could jump in the discussion this week, or someone could experience a precipitous drop. Let’s see who can keep the early mojo going heading into Indianapolis.
Livery Watch: Dario Franchitti will be in the black-and-gold Lexar livery, probably just to confuse me. Tony Kanaan will be in a white-and-red Itaipavia-sponsored machine, which will further mess with my head. Graham Rahal will be in the black, white, and blue blu-cig machine, and Oriol Servia will be in the black-and-green Valspar car. Essentially, it’s Brazil, so anything goes, apparently.
Mazda Road to Indy Update: No Firestone Indy Lights this weekend, obviously, but yesterday did see the Firestone Indy Lights test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then entire field was apparently within .7 seconds of one another. Kyle O' Gara did nice work in his first laps at Indy, finishing just behind Zach Veach for top time on the day. It should be interesting to see just such a close field fares at the always-chaotic Firestone Freedom 100 later this month.
Pole Winner Prediction: Will Power. Copy, paste, copy, paste...
Race Winner Prediction: I'll go with Power, but in my post-Long Beach euphoria, I'll take Takuma Sato for my backup.
Dark Horse Prediction: I guess we can't use Sato anymore, can we? Let's go with Justin Wilson to keep the good Dale Coyne vibes going.
Have a great weekend, enjoy the relatively early Sunday race, and rest up, because things are going to be moving in even more of a hurry starting next week!