Saturday, March 13, 2010

Power Storms to Lead through IndyCar Practice for Sao Paulo Race

Photo Credit: Steve Swope

Sporting a new title sponsor, two new race events, new or changed driver/team rosters and the departure of Indy Racing League founder Tony George, the 2010 off-season has provided the makings of a memorable season for what is now known as the IZOD IndyCar Series. As team equipment and personnel set on the ground of Sao Paulo, Brazil words such as potential and projection will be replaced with fast laps and results. A fitting entrance into a new racing season, the IZOD IndyCar Series' 2010 campaign will see the new look open wheel championship starting at the new locale of Sao Paulo streaking the 2.6 mile, 11-turn temporary street course.

Even though a multitude of new team/driver formulations are worthy topics for coverage, the Sao Paulo street course has been the leading news item through the first day of IZOD IndyCar competition. With 11 on-track incidents occurring mostly within the turn 3-4 segment, the 1/3 of a mile paved portion of the track's frontstretch area was painted for the Brazilian's city Carnival celebration making the area extra slippery for drivers. Taking the concerns of race's participants seriously, IndyCar series officials, Track designer Tony Cotman and the race promoter have made preparations to bring in equipment to roughen up the concrete surface overnight for Sunday's racing activities. Realizing the uneasiness that drivers have been feeling, IndyCar officials role was to reschedule qualifying for Sunday. Delaying the Sao Paulo Indy 300 qualifying until 4 hours before the race's start time on Sunday, the third practice for the event took place in the later afternoon hours producing the fastest times of the day.

In spite of the complications with the first time auto racing circuit, on-track activities continued as the 24 cars entered in this weekend's race ran a collective 1,202 laps or 3,125.2 miles. On the day, Penske Racing's Will Power prevailed with the fastest lap of the day at 1 minute and 31.289 seconds around the temporary street circuit. Eluding to the physical demands the circuit places on drivers, Power also confessed to the closeness of the competition. "Everyone got closer (in lap times) toward the end of the (final practice) session, which will make qualifying tighter and make it better for the fans." Power said.

Power performance in the Verizon #12 car spoiled what could have been a cause for celebration for the major South American city as hometown driver Tony Kanaan was nicked by just 5/100ths of a second for top honours of the day. Nonetheless, Kanaan has been centered within the top-3 drivers through every practice. Proudly, Kanaan commented after practice saying "I'm extremely happy with the team effort - not just Team 7-Eleven, but the whole (Andretti Autosport) team."

Third overall is Kanaan new teammate American Ryan Hunter-Reay in the #37 car wearing the IZOD name. A new addition to Andretti Autosport through the off-season, Hunter-Reay was somewhat interesting since the #37 team struggled through the IndyCar open test at Barber Motorsports Park just a few week ago. However, driver Ryan Hunter-Reay has been known to thrive on temporary road courses scoring 2nd in the race at St Petersburg in 2009 and before that winning his first Champ Car race on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia.

A few of the new teams debuting in the IZOD IndyCar Series for 2010 have also been able to lay down some strong runs through practice. While the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team has been a long-time staple in IndyCar racing, the addition of Justin Wilson saw the #22 become a full-time effort this year. Wilson finished strong in fourth place overall after the conclusion of day 1 practice. Another team, FAZZT Race Team, is truly a new addition to the open wheel series for 2010. Building a team from scratch through the latter part of 2009, Canadian Alex Tagliani was always a centerpiece. FAZZT Race Team's #77 car would end up a respectable 8th on the day with the Canadian happy about the young team's performance.

Reflecting back onto the established race outfits of Target/Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing, they're mixed through the top 12 cars. Reigning 2009 series champion Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon posted strong, near identical times in their Target/Chip Ganassi cars set up in 5th and 7th overall after the 3rd practice. As for Roger Penske's trio of black/white cars for 2010, Will Power's run to the top distanced himself from the other two Penske Racing cars of Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe. The latter two finished 10th and 11th on the overall chart with Briscoe's top time coming from the first practice. All Penske Racing drivers are optimistic about Sunday's race.

Other than the actual track surface issues, drivers and teams are singing high praise on competing in the colourful city. Driver of the new FAZZT Race Team Alex Tagliani commented "I think the promoters have done a fantastic job to facilitate the travel, the teams, the garages. It has all been great". For this inaugural IndyCar race in Brazil, local interests are well-represented by 7 drivers. Three-time Indy 500 winner and proud Brazilian countryman Helio Castroneves expresses his pressure racing in the South American country. "It's awesome to race here in front of my hometown fans - they have been great, and we're all looking forward to putting on a good show for them tomorrow."

The 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season kick off begins with the green flag for the Sao Paulo Indy 300 at 1 PM local time (12-Noon Eastern Time). Set for 75 laps, the race will be televised on TSN2 in Canada and Versus in the United States with the broadcast starting at 11:30 AM.

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