Racing and soccer do not typically coincide, but for Brazilian sports fans both are top-notch entertainment, and definitely provide a reason to be animado, or very excited as we would say in English. This weekend the IndyCar teams get a chance to taste that with the Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 – the only IZOD IndyCar Series race this year to be run outside of North America. For Josef Newgarden, driver of the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing IndyCar, traveling more than 5,000 miles for a race is a real eye-opener.
“The big difference with racing in Brazil compared to racing in the States is that the fans are very, very passionate,” he said. “It's almost like racing during a soccer match. They're super passionate about soccer down there and I think they bring that same sort of energy to the weekend, which is pretty cool. Going anywhere where you have fans that are that appreciative and that excited to have you there is always fun.”
The event also presents an opportunity for team bonding, as most of the crews stay on the race compound for the entire weekend. (Because this is a two-day event, on-track activity starts Saturday morning.)
“Last year Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) was supposed to shave his beard but he ended up not doing it, so I slapped him in the face with a handful of shaving cream,” Newgarden said laughing. “I don't think it made it on the air anywhere but it was on tape, so it's out there somewhere!”
The sophomore driver added that he's a big fan of the 2.536-mile street circuit itself, even before IndyCar's tweaks for this year designed to open up passing opportunities.
“I like the track a lot,” Newgarden said. “I like the way it's laid out, and it's very different than anywhere else we go. It has the longest back straight that we will go to at any point this year.
“We have to run very low downforce, which is not typical for a street course,” he adds. “Normally on street courses you run a lot of downforce, but in Brazil you can't because the straights are so long. That makes it difficult to balance but I think it's really fun.”