The Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 Presented By Nestle is in the (soggy) books, and among its page are a number of drivers who started deep in the field, only to climb rapidly over the progression of the race. The IZOD IndyCar Series' jaunt to Brazil featured plenty of action-packed passing, proving again that if conditions cooperate, this is one of the most interesting and busy street courses on the schedule.
But ultimately, this was a race of tenacity. It was Dario spinning and somehow coming back to finish 4th. It was Mike Conway, nearly forgotten after his electrical troubles, solidly moving up the field. It was Ryan Hunter-Reay fighting just to finish after losing his rear wing for the third time. It was Justin Wilson, spinning, falling out of the Top 10, fighting back only to have a mishap in the pits, but never relenting, and finally bringing it home in 7th place.
Here's a few of Sao Paulo's Hardest Chargers...neither rain nor sleet nor...well, you get the idea:
Oriol Servia (Started 16th, finished 5th)
Perhaps only Dario Franchitti and Will Power have been as consistently excellent this year. That's the biggest reason Servia is 3rd in the current championship standings. A poor qualification session couldn't stop him anymore than Power and Helio's spin right in front of him could at Long Beach. He's the paragon of the skilled, veteran driver that takes care of business.
Mike Conway (Started 9th, 20th on the restart, finished 6th)
If the cars hadn't ran some laps under yellow in the deluge on Sunday, Conway's car wouldn't have developed the electrical issues it did and Mike could have been in a spot to challenge for his second straight win. As it was, he fought his way back to a 6th-place finish. We'll see if his consistency in the last two races carries over to his rendezvous with Indy this month.
JR Hildebrand (Started 22nd, finished 10th)
The “Hildebeast” looks more comfortable out on the track with each passing week. Despite some difficulties, it seems like JR and Panther Racing continue to bring home respectable finishes. This oval-killing team now gets to show what they and their rookie driver can do at Indy.
EJ Viso (Started 26th, finished 13th)
Two penalties effectively finished Viso's chances of winning this race, but after being unable to qualify due to practice crash damage, he ran as high as 2nd before falling back. Still, a +13 in the results is nothing to sneeze at, and will hopefully be the start of better things for EJ going into Indy.
Sebastian Saavedra (Started 23rd, finished 11th)
Saavedra showed some real speed this weekend. He ran as high as 3rd before he had to make a late pit stop. We've always known he was fast; now we get to see how quick the consistency aspect comes along.
James Jakes (Started 24th, finished 15th)
Jakes ran in top 5 before a late spin shuffled him towards the middle of the field. Before you dismiss this an irrelevant footnote to the race, consider this; Jakes jumped to 22nd in the points. In a scenario where only 22 entries might get TEAM money next year, every finish he can put together bodes that much better for Dale Coyne Racing. Not every desperate series battle is at the front of the field.
Zachary Houghton runs www.indycaradvocate.com, which features regularly-update INDYCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, and Mazda Road to Indy interviews, commentary, and more. You can find him on Twitter at @indycaradvocate.