I remember being quite irate upon the first announcement of an IZOD IndyCar Series race in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Well, maybe irate isn’t the right word.
Confused would be more appropriate.
At this time, my thoughts focused on what would get the series more attention at home in America. To me, a season-opening race on another continent would cause the U.S. media to have an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality and not give IndyCar any attention on its biggest day of the season outside of the Indianapolis 500.
“Why would they do that to themselves?” I wondered.
It didn’t matter how much it would bolster the series’ alliance with APEX-Brasil or that the Brazilian fans would likely take to the race like ducks to water. I just didn’t like the move, period. IndyCar had enough issues that needed to be fixed Stateside, particularly in live attendance and TV ratings. If the series could solve those problems, then – and only then -- a Brazil race could work.
But as we all know, it didn’t work out that way and the 2010 campaign started in Sao Paulo. As car after car skidded across the Sambadromo straightaway during practice, the embarrassing prospect of not having a race at all began to emerge. If not for an overnight grind job, it may have come to pass.
As that Sunday began, the thought of the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300 winding up as the race of the year was impossible. However, I had forgotten something very basic, something that goes for sports and life in general: Anything can happen.
Sure enough, 'anything' did happen in Sao Paulo: A first-turn crash that ended with Mario Moraes' car on top of Marco Andretti, a rain and hail storm that put the race in intermission (and knocked out the power at Anhembi Park), one harrowing flight after another for drivers over the barrage of bumps on the course, Ryan Briscoe stuffing a potential win into the tire barrier, and plenty of action on the nearly mile-long backstretch leading into the final hairpin – which was where Will Power took the lead from Ryan Hunter-Reay on Lap 58 and never looked back.
Then there was Vitor Meira, a native of Brasilia, Brazil, who bagged a third-place result that surprised a lot of folks outside of the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing team. Instead of Helio Castroneves or Tony Kanaan, it was Meira who flew Brazilian green, blue and gold on the podium. It was truly a fantastic result to pull off in front of his countrymen.
All in all, this was one of the messier affairs in IZOD IndyCar Series history, but with more twists than a suspense novel, it was also perhaps the series’ best road/street course race ever. I remember posing that question on my Twitter page as the mayhem unfolded and got more than a few people tweeting an emphatic “Yes!”
It was that good, and it was now clear why the event’s inception made sense. As IndyCar heads back to Sao Paulo for the second running, it should be bigger and better as a result of last year’s exciting race.
There’s also the possibility of a second Brazil race coming down the pipe. During the offseason, rumors began to swirl about the southern city of Porto Alegre being a potential site for a 2012 race. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but I’ve found myself not that resistant to the idea. If it’s anywhere close to being as exciting as Sao Paulo, and it can net a healthy profit for the series, then it’d be a risk worth taking.
Indeed, I have changed and I am now a believer in Brazil as a major cornerstone for IndyCar’s international presence.