IndyCar’s Road to Miami Underway: Helio’s “Super Sub” Takes Brazil

Dario in Brazil

Dario Franchitti started from the pole but faded to a seventh-place finish after staying on rain tires too long. "We played it as best we could, so I can't be too disappointed." (photo courtesy: Ron McQueeney, IndyCar Media)

Last spring, Will Power was signed by Team Penske as a stop-gap substitute while Coral Gables-resident Helio Castroneves was tending to off-track business. Last July, Power made Penske look good by leading from start to finish to win at Edmonton and notch his first-ever IndyCar victory.

This year in Race 1 of the 2010 IZOD IndyCar season in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, it was more of the same: Power made an ambitious maneuver at the end of the long backstretch to wrestle the lead from Boca Raton-resident Ryan Hunter-Reay and win the rain-shortened IndyCar opener. The 2010 IndyCar Champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway Oct. 2.

"I feel awesome," Power said. "We battled it out, it was a great day."

The race had to be red-flagged after heavy rains made track conditions unsafe, and the race ended at the two-hour time limit, with 61 of the 75 scheduled laps completed. It was the first time in IndyCar Series history that the race was run on the same day as qualifying, which was postponed from Saturday because the front straight was too slick and drivers complained it made racing unsafe.

Home-crowd favorite and Miami resident Vitor Meira was third, followed by a string of fellow Brazilians-turned-Miamians: Raphael Matos (fourth), Castroneves (ninth) and Tony Kanaan (10th).

Former IndyCar Champions Scott Dixon (2003, 2008) and Dario Franchitti (2007, 2009)—both of whom again will be looking for Championship glory in Miami Oct. 2—finished sixth and seventh, respectively. Franchitti, who claimed the crown at Homestead-Miami Speedway last fall after winning the Firestone Indy 300 winner, had earned his 13th career pole and led the race for 29 laps after it was interrupted by rain. He eventually dropped off after sticking with rain tires longer than the other drivers.

Danica Patrick lost control of her car as it started raining, finishing 15th. She was joined by three other women on the grid, marking the first time four women started an IndyCar Series race.

After sustaining a season-ending back injury in a crash last year, Power didn’t earn a full-season ride from Penske until this past November.

"It's been a tough recovery," said Power. "I'm very grateful to be given this opportunity. I laid in bed at the hospital and never thought it was going to happen."

Hunter-Reay dominated much of the race with his Andretti Autosport car—leading 20 laps to Power’s four—but fell just short.

"I had a blast all day," said Hunter-Reay. "I had so much fun with conditions changing all the time—that's what racing is about."

Hunter-Reay, Power, Patrick, Castroneves and the rest of the IndyCar field will resume the pursuit for fall glory in Miami in Race 2 with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 28 (3:30 p.m. EST. on ABC). The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network, XM channel 145 and Sirius channel 211 from the streets of St. Petersburg. Both the IZOD IndyCar and Firestone Indy Lights Series Championships will culminate at Homestead-Miami Speedway the weekend of Oct. 1-2. For ticket information, stay tuned to THEChampionshipTrack.com or call toll free (866) 409-RACE.

Kids FREE: Homestead-Miami Speedway is the only venue ever to host all of North America’s premier motorsports Championships, and we’re doing it again in 2010 as THE Championship Track will be the site of both the IZOD IndyCar Championship (Oct. 1-2) and NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 19-21). Kids 12 & under are FREE to four of the five races. For tickets and more information, call (866) 409-RACE or visit THEChampionshipTrack.com.

MotorRacingNetwork.com contributed to this report.

Mixed Day for South Florida Drivers

Vitor in Brazil

Boca Raton-resident Ryan Hunter-Reay finished second in his debut race with Andretti Autosport.  Hunter-Reay also finished second at the 2009 IZOD IndyCar Series season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg.  Andretti Autosport signed Hunter-Reay in January with hopes of putting together a full-time ride.

“That's what we need on these street circuit and road courses is a lot of passing like that,” said Hunter-Reay.  “It was just great to get the IZOD car up on the podium in second place to start of the season.”

Home-crowd favorite and Miami resident Vitor Meira was third, followed by a string of fellow Brazilians-turned-Miamians: Raphael Matos (fourth), Helio Castroneves (ninth) and Tony Kanaan (10th).

"It couldn't be much better than that. I think Will (Power) can relate to it with a back injury and all that,” said Meira.  “It gets pretty uncertain at some times and having a team behind you making sure that the seat is available, makes a big difference during the recovery.  This is the start of the big thank you I have to give to A.J. (Foyt) and ABC Supply.”

South Beach resident Marco Andretti escaped injury after being involved in a scary accident at the start of the Sao Paulo Indy 300 on Sunday.  The car of fellow South Floridian Mario Moraes crashed into the back of Andretti's slowing car as they approached the first chicane after the start.

Mario Moraes and Marco Andretti were involved in a previous first-corner mess.  IndyCar Series fans remember when the duo tangled at the start of last year's Indianapolis 500. The blame was clear Sunday in the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300.  Moraes, who started 23rd in the 24-car field, lost control of his car as he approached a pack of slowed cars in his path. Sliding sideways, Moraes bounced on top of Andretti's car.

“The start was very dusty and drivers in front of me were braking early into Turn One," said Moraes.  "By the time I realized it was about 500 metres into the corner and when I applied the brakes I lost the rear and hit another car ending my race on the first lap."

No one seemed sure what ignited the accident, but the lack of visibility from the dust likely contributed to the congestion

"It's obviously dusty. I think if you have any common sense, you're not going to stay flat out if you can't see the car ahead of you," said Andretti.  "I don't know, I got hit from behind."

"I needed a minute to get my bearings," said Andretti after climbing from his wrecked Andretti Autosport car.

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