Verizon Team Penske driver Will Power survived a wild ride on Sunday afternoon on the streets of Sao Paulo to complete an impressive comeback with a win in the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series 2010 season opener. Power captured the lead with just over three minutes remaining in the Sao Paulo Indy 300 and raced to his second IZOD IndyCar Series victory and second win for Penske Racing.
Driving the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara-Honda, Power passed Ryan Hunter-Reay on the 58th lap of the race, which became a timed event after a lengthy delay due to rain. The victory put Power in the early lead for the 2010 championship and proved that he is fully recovered from a crash in August that injured his back and ended his 2009 season.
From track challenges to downpours to crashes, this season opener was one that won't be forgotten – especially by Power.
"It was probably the most mixed-up race that I have ever been in, but it created an opportunity for me and the Verizon team to come back through the field and end up winning the race," said Power of the event that saw qualifying postponed to Sunday morning after the track was ground down Saturday night to improve the slick conditions on the long straightaway. "The improvements that they made to the track last night were like night and day. I didn't have a problem at all going down the front straight. I think it was just a really good day for racing. If you were fast, you could pass, because there is such a good track layout here. I'm pretty sure it was an exciting race for the fans."
As well as Hunter-Reay, Power's win came at the expense of teammate Ryan Briscoe. After recovering from early contact, Briscoe was leading the race in the closing stages when his car slid into a tire barrier on the 54th lap of the 61-lap race. He ended up 14th in the final order.
"I was battling for the win, but, unfortunately, I locked up the brakes down in Turn 5 and went into the tires," said Briscoe. "Then we had to come in and make a wing change. It was definitely an exciting day for me – I went from the front to the back to the front, something like two or three times. The Sao Paulo circuit was great. I think this was some of the best open-wheel racing I've been a part of today."
For third team driver Helio Castroneves, racing in front of his hometown crowd in an Indy car race for the first time, the recovery to finish ninth was a pleasant surprise. On the first lap, Castroneves was caught in a multi-car crash that also included Power. After a pit stop for repairs, he battled back before the rain delay set him back again.
"Everything seemed to happen today," Castroneves said. "Unfortunately, we had some bad things happen to us. I got tangled with two other drivers at the start and then we had some issues in the pits. I also made the call to stay out (on rain tires) and it turned out to not be the right call. It was good to end with four wheels on the ground and to finish in the top 10. For Team Penske, it was a good result with Will's win. But we scored some points for the championship and hopefully we'll do even better at St. Pete. We're going to take this lemon and make lemonade from it."
Lemons weren't on the menu Sunday for Power, the 29-year-old Australian who earned a full-time ride with Team Penske in the Verizon car this season after a stellar performance in a part-time role for the team in 2009. Power's day didn't have a great beginning as the No. 12 Verizon team missed the morning practice with a gearbox issue. The team rallied to fix the problem and made it back out on the course in time for qualifying as Power earned a fifth-place starting spot. After a rough start to the race that included a cut tire and a quick pit stop, Power returned to the track and began his pursuit of the leaders.
"I was really proud of my guys for the job they did to get us ready for qualifying," said Power. "They really were great all day. It was a long day with qualifying and the race all in just a few hours, but we were able to come out all right in the end."