Aussie Will Power favourite for Indy 500
Will Power has stamped himself a clear favourite for next month’s iconic Indianapolis 500 after sealing his third straight Indycar race victory.
The Australian drove flawlessly from pole position in the Sao Paulo 300 on Sunday (Monday AEST) to win the Brazilian event for a third successive year.
Power was clearly fastest and won the street race from American Ryan Hunter-Reay with Japanese ex-Formula One racer Takuma Sato third.
It was the Penske team’s fourth success from four starts this year, after Power’s teammate Helio Castroneves won the opening round in Florida and the Australian prevailed in California and Alabama.
Next up is the season’s highlight, the Indy 500 on May 27, and Power heads there with plenty of confidence of a breakthrough first win on the celebrated oval after extending his series lead.
“This was definitely good for the points. The biggest one is next race and we’ll try to make it four in a row,” the Queenslander said.
Power had to fend off Hunter-Reay on a couple of late restarts in Sao Paulo, including one with five laps to go, and crossed the line less than a second ahead of the American.
“I was giving absolutely everything I had to keep Ryan behind,” Power said.
“A solid day when you look at it, very solid, no mistakes.”
Hunter-Reay could only praise the form of pace-stetting Power and his Penske team.
“Something is clicking there very well. I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all that they’ve won as many as they’ve won this season,” Hunter-Reay said.
“Three out of four (for Power), that’s astonishing.”
Power remains the only winner of the three-year-old Sao Paulo 300. Last year he won from pole in a race postponed a day because of heavy rain and he won the inaugural race in 2010 by passing Hunter-Reay with three laps to go in a rain-shortened event.
Japan’s Sato surprised with third place – his first podium finish – after starting back in the grid because of an engine change. He also overcame a drive-through penalty on lap 12, using a three-stop strategy and being aggressive on restarts to move to the front.
“Will was just about lapping me when I had a drive-through penalty, so we were really lucky,” Sato said. “It was an eventful and very exciting race. Every restart really helped me a lot.”
Eight drivers were involved in a crash at a restart with eight laps to go and, although there was little contact, the track was blocked as the cars tried to make it through the first chicane.
New Zealander Scott Dixon was on a different pit strategy and passed Power for the lead on lap 52 as the Australian came off the pits, but Dixon – who started third – had to make another stop at the end and finished only 17th.
Sydney’s Ryan Briscoe, Power’s teammate at Penske, hit the wall exiting a turn on lap 22, ending his race.
Rubens Barrichello, in his first race at home since joining IndyCar this season after a 19-year career in Formula One, ran as high as third place but fell to 10th at the end.© AAP 2013
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