FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestlé

First Impressions, IndyCar — By on May 5, 2013 2:46 pm
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With the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestlé in the books, the More Front Wing crew offers their first impressions of the event below. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments!

Paul’s impressions:

A three-wide race for the lead?  Unpredictability all the way to the checkered flag?  Wheel-to-wheel action from start to finish?  A Sarah Fisher owned car going for the win?  It was everything that oval fans have been crying for for years!

…Except it was on a street course.

Once again, the IZOD IndyCar Series “Most Overlooked Race of the Year” put on one of the best displays of racing that we will see all year long.  Kudos to Tony Cotman and his NZR Consulting Group for designing and refining what I think is the best street course circuit the series will race on.  In four years of visiting the streets of São Paulo, it has yet to fail in giving exciting racing.  The minute changes this year made a great track even better.

This day was about the drivers, though.  There were so many great stories throughout this race, including Takuma Sato going for his second consecutive win, watching Will Power put on a clinic after starting 22nd before an engine fire left him sidelined early in the race, Josef Newgarden’s fantastic run that nearly netted his first career podium, Marco Andretti battling until the very end to score his second street course podium of the young season, and on and on.  This was a race that was decided on the track by drivers giving it everything they had.  It wasn’t decided by fuel strategy or tires.  The winner was simply the driver who had the strongest desire to cross the line first.  That’s just how it should be!

People will be talking about the late race moves of Takuma Sato and race control’s decision to swallow the whistle when it looked like Sato blocked both Newgarden and Hinchcliffe on separate occasions.  My opinion was that Sato’s moves were not egregious enough to warrant penalty and that his line, while he certainly hugged the wall on the long back straight while apexing the kink, was likely the racing line that nearly all drivers used throughout the day.  In the end, the defensive line he took on the last lap ultimately cost him the race when he was unable to hold off Hinchcliffe, who took the more advantageous route through the final turn and snuck past on his way to the checkers.

This day, though, belonged to James Hinchcliffe and Andretti Autosport.  With seven laps remaining it looked like Hinch was going to have to battle for the final spot on the podium until he put it in gear, tracked down the leaders, and made a pair of great passes to score the win.

Anyone who claims Hinch is a star of the future, I’ve got news for you:  James Hinchcliffe is a star of now!

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Steph’s impressions:

I was all ready to slag off on this race for having too many brain fades, too many yellows, and too much carnage. But then, the last 15 laps happened. I haven’t actually screamed at a race broadcast in a very long time. I’m still catching my breath!

It looks as though the subject of whether Takuma Sato’s defending moves were worthy of penalty will be the hot topic in the coming days. My stance is that a driver needs to be able to defend a position — particularly when that position is the lead with five laps to go, though in a perfect world it would be consistent in every instance — and that Sato’s moves did nothing more than make the drivers behind him work for it. There were rules in place for far too long that restricted the drivers’ ability to produce honest, hard racing, and we’re seeing the payoff of those changes. That’s not meant to advocate anarchy, of course — if someone does damage or is clearly being erratic and/or dangerous, that’s that the rule is for. But so long as the current application is well-communicated and consistent, then no harm, no foul.

There are plenty of other things to look at in detail over the next while — yet another DNF for Will Power, the awful luck of the Brazilians at their home track, Marco Andretti’s second street course podium of 2013, and Takuma Sato holding the points lead going into the Month of May, to name a few — and we’ll get to all of those.

But we’d better do it before Opening Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway comes along because all of these discussions are very shortly going to take a back seat to the events leading up to the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!

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John’s impressions:

What a race! That was an absolute knife fight between Sato and Hinchcliffe at the end there. (Even if Sato did get a way with a acouple of blocks) It was really hard to change the channel to the manufactured mess at Talladega after watching such a pure racing display in Brazil. Bravo to Indycar for the level of competition. Anyone that tunes into these races will come back for more! I can’t wait for the 500 given the level of unpredictability so far in 2013.

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Zack’s impressions:

It’s no hyperbole to suggest that was simply one of the greatest open-wheel street races in recent memory. On a day where teams like Ganassi and Penske ran into repeated trouble, the rest of the field showed there may no limit to IndyCar’s unpredictability this season. The racing product and talent right now is just so excellent, it’s tough to know where to begin.

IndyCar fans should go into the rest of May with a lot of positivity. IndyCar’s drivers are putting on an absolute show this year, and guys like Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato, and James Hinchcliffe are a massive part of the reason.

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Chad’s impressions:

I think everyone now knows what it feels like to have an asthma attack. Can you even come up with a street/road course finish that would rival what we all just witnessed?

Let’s first say that Hinchcliffe’s breathtaking pass on the final turn saved IndyCar from having to make a ruling on Sato’s driving. It looked like someone driving down the interstate that spilled hot coffee in his lap, or dropped his phone on the floor board. He was all over the place, chopping Newgarden and Hinchcliffe. It would have been a very messy situation for the series had he won that race. Instead, Hinch grabs another win, giving him two wins and two DNF’s this year. Talk about feast or famine.

It was another tough break for Power. He had a chance at history, to become just the sixth person in history to win four consecutive races at the same track. He would have joined the legends (AJ Foyt, Rick Mears, Al Unser Jr, Mario Andretti, and Bobby Rahal) but now has a major uphill battle in the championship, especially with the ovals coming up.

So, Sato is the points leader heading into Indy, and Marco is in second. Nobody could have predicted that heading into this season. I think because of the way it ended, everyone forgot about the first 65 laps of the race. There was a lot of yellow out there, and a lot of brakes locking up. But there was a lot of passing, too, with a bunch of different drivers mixing it up at the front of the field.

Now we only have five days to digest the awesomeness that we just saw and make room in our stomachs for what truly is the Greatest Spectacle in Racing!

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Bash’s impressions:

Man, it’s hard to type with the adrenaline flowing like this.  Holy &#(*, that was outstanding!

Great to see Tony Kanaan lead in his home town and Simon Pagenaud contending near the end after the season he’s had. The Sato-Newgarten-Hinchcliffe battle at the end was a heart attack, and we honestly couldn’t lose no matter which way it turned out. Any one of the three was a great story, but the Mayor of Hinchtown was dead set on getting his second win of the season. Sato and the Foyt team had another strong race, and Marco Andretti continues to show the dividends from his off-season work. And Josef Newgarten was *thisclose* to his first win for Sarah Fisher!

It was thrilling today, and look at the names in the spotlight as we head into Indy: Andretti, Foyt and Fisher are long-time crowd favorites, their drivers quite capable, and you know the usual suspects will be stronger than they’ve been so far this season.  Really can’t wait to see what happens next!  For now, I need time with a defibrillator and an oxygen mask. *breathe*

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