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A mixed bag for the Brazilians
| Apr 29, 2012
Around the midway point of Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300, things were looking good for a bit of Brazilian flair on the podium.
Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan and Rubens Barrichello were all sitting in or near the top five, seemingly poised to make their move in the second half and excite the masses all around the 2.54-mile Anhembi Park street circuit.
Once again, the fans were out in droves this weekend at Sao Paulo to support the IndyCars and especially their fellow Brazilians, which also included the returning Ana Beatriz in a fourth Andretti Autosport machine.
The stellar crowd (not to mention the surprising yet welcome lack of gully-washers) helped
make for a great atmosphere on Sunday in South America’s biggest city, and it certainly was ready to celebrate a victory or podium finish from one of their own like they did for Vitor Meira upon his third-place finish in 2010.
But instead, the crowd went without seeing a Brazilian on the podium for the second straight year. Castroneves gave it his best shot, though.
A subpar qualifying session saw the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner start 18th on the grid. But despite taking damage to his front wing in the race, Castroneves was able to work his way through the field to finish fourth for his best result ever in front of his hometown fans.
He was also able to maintain his grip on second place in the standings as he prepares to embark on another quest to join Indy’s immortals -- A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears – as four-time ‘500’ champions.
“I received many messages on Twitter yesterday when people saw my frustration after qualifying -- inspiring me -- and they were the ones really driving me today,” said Castroneves, who benefitted from a three-stop strategy. “It was a great call today by [race strategist] John Erickson on the pit strategy and the car was good.”
As for the former Formula One star Barrichello, who was probably the biggest reason why not one seat was to be had on Sunday, he faded late in the race and finished 10th in his first Sao Paulo street run after 19 Grand Prix at the famous Interlagos on the south side of the city.
But he was still a beneficiary of the restart incident with eight laps to go, when Mike Conway went into the wall at the S of Samba and caused a multi-car stack-up at Turns 1 and 2.
That made Barrichello a little happier.
"When you are in 16th place and at the end of the race you gain six positions you have to feel better,” he said. “…I gave my very best today. Unfortunately, because of all the cautions flags our strategy didn't work out today, but it will out some other day."
He also had better luck than Kanaan (who finished 13th) and Beatriz (20th) did. Both of them were caught in the aforementioned traffic jam at the S of Samba.
"Unfortunately, our strategy didn't work out the way we wanted because of the number of yellow flags,” Kanaan said. “That is racing. If everything had played out the way we envisioned, we would have been in the top-five. It's a shame, but it is always fun to race in front of the Brazilian fans.”
"The race result didn't show our potential,” said Beatriz, who had to deal with multiple on-track penalties before being involved in the last incident of the day. “We ran in the top 10 and were consistent. Unfortunately, we didn't have the best speed on the straights and were being beaten by the other guys. But we were good on the corners, so I'm happy to accomplish running in the top five.”
Beatriz will join the other Brazilians and the rest of the IZOD IndyCar Series as well for the 96th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. As IndyCar drivers, the ‘500’ is the one race they want to win more than any other.
But even so, it’s always nice to come home, especially to the raucous reception that awaited this particular foursome every time they hit the track. And even when they weren’t on it.
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