Race Weekend Central

IndyCar In-Depth: Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300

What’s News?

Longtime series participants Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have announced the No. 22 car driven by Oriol Servia will continue to run through the Indianapolis 500; then, the team will be shutting down with hopes of regrouping for a return in 2014. Servia finished sixth in Long Beach and will be running in Sao Paulo this weekend; however, his plans beyond this month are unknown. DRR formed a strategic alliance with Panther Racing prior to the Indy 500 last season and notes that Panther’s operations will be unaffected by this decision.

“We have to thank our great network of partners that have supported us and we want to continue to perform at our highest level for them. We’ll be working hard to bring in additional sponsors as we rebuild after Indy this year and look to next season,” said team co-owner Robbie Buhl.

Meanwhile, in Sao Paulo, a modification to Turns 1 and 2 of the course have been made in order to maximize passing opportunities and perhaps allow drivers to post faster lap times.

“The biggest change is that we’ve moved the curbing in Turn 1 and 2, particularly in Turn 2, where they have been moved quite a bit to the driver’s right,” said circuit designer Tony Cotman. “(Turn 2 is) about 10 feet wider now and the curbs that are there have been lowered, so the corner will be quicker, without question. The goal was to help improve things for double-file restarts and particularly in the rain. We’ve seen how difficult it can be over the years.”

Some bumps in Turn 10 have also been smoothed out, and some drainage problems addressed to help prevent puddling issues that have come up in past years.

Helio Castroneves wants to be the first Brazilian to win on the streets of Sao Paulo this weekend.

Track Preview

The drivers and teams of the IZOD IndyCar Series visit the streets of Sao Paulo for the fourth time this weekend for the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300. The course is an 11-turn, 2.536-mile temporary street circuit. The race distance is 75 laps for 190.2 miles. Anyone wanting to stand atop the podium this week will have to go through Will Power, who has won all three of the previous events on this circuit. Power also has the last two pole starts in Sao Paulo, with Dario Franchitti taking the other in 2010. And, surprise, Power holds the track record lap of 1:21.2781, 112.334 mph set last April. Television coverage will start at 11:00 AM ET on NBC Sports Network, with radio coverage available via the IMS Radio Network and on Sirius XM 211.

What’s the Points – Drivers?

Helio Castroneves, with a total of 99 points, leads by 6 over last race winner Takuma Sato, who has 93. Scott Dixon represents the Ganassi operation in third, trailing the leader by 10 but still off to a solid start. Marco Andretti is fourth, with 87 points while Justin Wilson rounds out the top five with 81. Of note, defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is sixth with 73 points. An interesting start to the season!

What’s the Points – Manufacturers?

Part of it is that there are only two manufacturers this year but the battle here is tight and likely will be all season. Chevrolet holds the lead by three points over Honda for the moment.

Driver to Watch: Helio Castroneves. Teammate Will Power might be hogging all the hardware to date from Sao Paulo, but it is Castroneves who has gotten off to a better start in 2013, with two podium finishes to his credit. Holding momentum on his side, the Brazilian looks to be the first to win his (or her) home race. (Tony Kanaan and Ana Beatriz are the other Brazilian drivers in the field.) A win in Sao Paulo would also help to pad Castroneves’ points lead heading into Indy, another track where he has what you might call a good history. That being said, Castroneves does have to step up his performance a bit after previous finishes in this event of ninth, 21st, and fourth. But with the same equipment Power used to grab the three previous victories, he can certainly get it done.

Other News?

It’s hard not to jump ahead as the news coming out since Long Beach has primarily been about one-off driver and team combinations coming together for the Indy 500 at the end of May. (Pippa Mann for Dale Coyne Racing and Michel Jourdain for Rahal Letterman Lanigan are the latest announcements.) But there is this little business of a race in Brazil first…

Who Ya Got?

Castroneves continues his strong start, maintains Penske’s dominance in Sao Paulo, and becomes the first Brazilian driver to win his home event. There’s a bit of a consensus on this pick as Huston Ladner is agreeing with Toni Montgomery on this one. Matt Stallknecht is going out on a limb, however and thinks this could be a breakthrough weekend for Charlie Kimball. Matt notes Kimball did very well on the similar Belle Isle course last year and appears to be turning a corner.

Up Next

Sao Paulo is the last stop before the IZOD IndyCar Series returns “home” to Indiana for the traditional month of May festivities surrounding the 97th Indianapolis 500. Qualifying for the Indy 500 will be May 18th and 19th while the race takes place Memorial Day weekend on Sunday, May 26th.

Connect with Toni!

Contact Toni Montgomery

About the author

A writer for Frontstretch since 2002, and editor since 2006, Toni heads up the NHRA coverage for the site. She’s responsible for post-race coverage in the weekly Pace Laps multi-series round-up along with the weekly Nitro Shots column featuring news and features from the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. An award-winning former writer for the Presbyterian Church, Toni works in web design and freelances with writing in North Carolina.

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