Will Power Wins, Briscoe Finishes Third in Sao Paulo
May 2, 2011
Photo courtesy of Steve Swope
SAO PAULO, Brazil (May 2, 2011) – Verizon Team Penske's Will Power scored his second victory of the season and recaptured the lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship chase Monday by winning the rain-delayed Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle.
The victory led another strong performance by Team Penske, as Ryan Briscoe finished third to give the team two spots on the podium. Helio Castroneves, who was involved in a four-car accident during the start of the race on Sunday, battled back to finish 21st on Monday.
Power now leads Dario Franchitti by 14 points in the series championship standings heading into the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 later this month.
"I'm really happy to get the Verizon car back in Victory Lane again this year," said Power, who earned a win on the streets of Sao Paulo for the second consecutive season. "We've been on pole four times and we've won twice. That's a nice start to the season."
Power won the pole position Saturday in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Honda and led the first 14 laps of the race Sunday before heavy rain forced the postponement of the event. When action resumed on the 15th lap Monday, Power briefly surrendered the lead, but fought back to the front by the time the checkered flag waved.
Rain began to fall again on the fast 2.6-mile street circuit just as the race resumed with Power on the point and Briscoe running second. The competitors quickly came into the pits to put on rain tires as the track became soaked for the second straight day. Takuma Sato got by Power for the lead before both Power and Briscoe made pit stops on lap 36. While the Penske Logistics car driven by Briscoe took fuel only on the stop, the Verizon team changed tires and added fuel as Power just edged his teammate coming off pit lane.
With several drivers running in front of them on different pit strategies, both Power and Briscoe maintained their positions in the top-10. Power was able to pass several competitors, including championship rival Dario Franchitti and Graham Rahal. Briscoe was also able to pass Franchitti in the hairpin turn and when the cars in front of them began to pit late in the two-hour timed race, Power and Briscoe were once again at the front of the field. Power ran strong to checkered flag to claim his 11th career Indy car win while Briscoe finished behind Rahal and held off Franchitti to finish third.
"It was a great win for Verizon Team Penske. Early on in the race I bent my car when I hit the wall, but it really didn't seem to affect the handling too bad," said Power, who produced his sixth win from the pole on Monday. "Overall, it was a good weekend. It's great to get the lead back in the championship as we head to Indianapolis. The only thing is, I wish we could've raced yesterday in front of a full house of fans. The promoters have done such a great job with this circuit and it would've been nice to put on a good show for the fans yesterday. I'm sure the fans that were here today enjoyed the race and it will be great to come back to defend our win here next year."
For Briscoe, who qualified fourth, it marked his second consecutive podium result in the No. 6 Penske Logistics Dallara/Honda. He improved three positions to fifth in the series standings with the strong effort.
"It was good strategy and a good finish today for the Penske Logistics car," said Briscoe. "We kept our nose clean. There was certainly a lot of havoc going on around me during a lot of the race. It was good to get past Dario (Franchitti) and hold him off at the end to bring home third and pick up some solid points. I was trying to catch (Graham) Rahal for second place, but we were doing about the same lap time. Overall, it was a great day for Team Penske and another good job by Will. I also have to say this was a great racing track. It's one of the best street courses we'll race on all year."
After contact with Franchitti on the opening lap on Sunday forced his team to the garage for repairs, Castroneves had a tough result in the No. 3 Itaipava Team Penske car. He fought hard and improved several positions after the race resumed Monday as he took the checkered flag in 21st place. With the finish, Castroneves is now ranked 17th in the point standings. The difficult start to the season has given the three-time Indy 500 winner added impetus heading into the month of May.
"Well, we knew coming into today that it was not going to be ideal, starting nine laps down, but it's what we had to deal with after the incident at the start," said Castroneves, a native of Sao Paulo. "I have to thank Itaipava for coming on board and supporting Team Penske and myself for this race. Again, it was unfortunate for the fans that we didn't race yesterday. I also would like to thank the promoter for putting together a great race. The facility and the track were fantastic. Now, I can only look forward to returning back to the U.S. and our next race at Indianapolis. Indy has always been very good to me. The energy and the vibe of that place is always special and it is the perfect place to make a new start to the season for me and the No. 3 team as we welcome Shell and Pennzoil to Team Penske."
Action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway begins with the opening day of practice on May 14. Pole qualifying is scheduled for May 21, with the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 set for May 29.