Random Thoughts On São Paulo

Whether it’s in the wet or the dry, it looks like Will Power has pretty well figured out the streets of São Paulo, Brazil. Against an ominous forecast, the Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 was run practically rain-free. This was in direct contrast to the previous two versions that were both heavily affected by rain. It didn’t matter. The result was the same. Will Power won in very non-dramatic fashion.

For those that are complaining of Power’s dominance on street courses, try taking a step back and appreciate what you are witnessing. At Barber and Long Beach, Power made things interesting because he was starting in mid-pack before he drove to victory. At São Paulo, Power started on the pole and only relinquished the lead during pit stops.

On the surface, this seemed like a boring race because Power led almost all of the laps and he made it look effortless. This isn’t just Team Penske giving him a better car; this is a display of talent that is head-and-shoulders above everyone else on the grid. Sure, it helps that he is on the best team in the business and that he has a Chevrolet engine in his car – but those things didn’t help his teammates this past weekend. Helio Castroneves qualified twentieth and Ryan Briscoe tenth. Briscoe crashed early in the race, while Helio did very well to finish fourth.

It actually was a pretty good race behind the leader. Mike Conway was fast all day, but caused an accident and got caught up in another on his way to a very disappointing nineteenth place finish. Tony Kanaan was another driver who excelled throughout most of the day, yet only had a thirteenth place finish to show for it. The same goes for Scott Dixon who started third and finished seventeenth – the product of an ill-timed caution for Josef Newgarden hitting the wall late in the race.

On the other hand, some drivers made great strides from the start. As already mentioned, Helio Castroneves went from qualifying twentieth to finish fourth, although he was helped a little by a reshuffling of the starting grid due to penalties to other drivers for various reasons. Ryan Hunter-Reay had a great run. He started fifth and ended up second. After the season Dario Franchitti has had so far, he is probably relieved to be headed home to Nashville with a fifth place finish. Rubens Barrichello is probably not satisfied with finishing tenth in his home country, but he is showing steady improvement. I still expect him to win a race this season. Ana Beatriz started twenty-first and appeared to be headed for a top-ten finish in her homeland, only to be caught up in the late-race pile-up, which dropped her to twentieth.

But up front, it was Will Power all the way. Unless he was to get caught up in someone else’s crazy move on a re-start, there was little doubt from early on that he would win. Yes, that made it boring in a way – but it was good to accept that just to watch an artist perform his craft. His talent on street courses is exceptional. Don’t begrudge him for that. Admire it and appreciate it. It may be a while before we see someone else with such enormous talent for these type of tracks comes along again. Of course, his record on the oval at 16th and Georgetown is not quite as stellar. He’s decent, but obviously beatable. If he figures that place out – look out!

TV Coverage: First off, NBC Sports Network had little, if any, control over the camera work. They were at the mercy of the Brazilian TV feed. But kudos to Kevin Lee for literally fighting his way through the maze of Brazilian TV personnel at the end of the race in order to get to interview Power first.

Kevin Lee was the only on-air talent that was on-site. The booth trio and Robin Miller all stayed behind and called the race from a studio in Indianapolis. There was some lag-time and some static at first from on-site, but all in all – there were few technical glitches given the distance and logistics involved.

I was a bit perplexed during the intro of the pre-race show when Bob Jenkins said there were three Brazilian drivers hoping to score a win in their home country – Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves and Rubens Barrichello. There was no mention of Ana Beatriz. This wasn’t the fault of Bob Jenkins – he was simply reading a script. The video that followed along only showed the three mentioned drivers. Someone in production obviously screwed up and omitted Bia. Not good.

One thing that was Bob’s fault was when he proclaimed that Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold were both leaving Lotus for Honda. Huh? When did I miss that? The last I heard was pure speculation that BHA would be going with Honda and DRR would go with Chevrolet. When was it announced that DRR would also be going with Honda. Fortunately, later in the broadcast – Jon Beekhuis set it straight that nothing had been announced and then restated the rumors that we had all heard.

I have few complaints with the job that NBC Sports Network has done, but I do have one – Please minimize the info bar at the top of the screen. There is a huge chunk of space that is always blank, and then the scroll hangs down way beyond that. I’m probably exaggerating, but it seems like almost the scroll at the top blocks twenty percent of the entire screen. It is very annoying and intrusive. I like the information but graphic artistry should come second when you’re blocking the view.

On another note, I hope that NBCSN can sell more ad time before qualifying weekend. I can appreciate the message, but seeing grotesque chest scars and double amputees in the anti-smoking ads is getting a little old. Coverage started at 10:00 am local time. It was just a little too early to be seeing those sights repeatedly.

I keep saying it, but if you haven’t seen any of the episodes of IndyCar 36, they are worth seeking out online. They are some of the best-produced programming I’ve ever seen that involved INDYCAR.

Tough day for Newgarden: I’ll admit a strong bias for Josef Newgarden. Not only is he a Nashville native, but he is an exceptionally good guy – and will be good for the series if they can hold on to him. He drove a great race yesterday, but only has a twenty-third place finish to show for it. He was punted by Simona de Silvestro and lost a lap and seemed to be caught up in a lot of incidents throughout the day. Then, he slapped the wall late in the race and ended his day. It’s a shame. He drove much better than his results showed. Don’t be surprised to see him on the podium before the summer is over.

All in all: This was not a great race, simply because there was not much doubt who would win. At the risk of sounding like a NASCAR fan, thank God there were a few incidents that shook things up and kept things interesting. Otherwise, Power would have completely checked out. Still, when you sit and watch him drive – it’s hard to not appreciate it. He has hardly put a wheel wrong all season. At least we now know how this circuit races in (mostly) dry conditions. I like the looks of the track and would like to put it on my list of tracks to visit whenever I win the lottery.

The Month of May: OK, we now have four road courses behind us. As hard as it is to believe, the season is now officially one-quarter over. But starting tomorrow, the Month of May officially arrives. I can’t promise that I’ll have a post every day in May, but I’ll certainly post more than my usual three days a week. There will be a post tomorrow welcoming the month along with an announcement of an upcoming contest for the month. Plus, there will be a couple of other surprises I’ll have throughout May. So please make sure to visit Oilpressure.com every day throughout the Month of May. The Indianapolis 500 is almost upon us. I can’t wait.

George Phillips

17 Responses to “Random Thoughts On São Paulo”

  1. SkipinSC Says:

    I know there is a good deal of expense involved in transporting an entire TV vrew and equipment to Sao Paulo, and I get that the number of “eyes” on the series may not be great enough to justify the expense, but it sure seems to me like we’re making our own series out to be “bush league” when we only send a pit reporter to cover all the festivites there. Imagine the same thing will be true for Xingdao later in the season, but it just doesn’t come off as serious coverage when everyone but Kevin’s in an Indianapolis studio.

    • Bob Varsha said on Twitter the other day that most of Speed’s F1 coverage is done from a studio as well. That is actually NBC’s call and not IndyCar’s so there really isn’t anything they can do unless the want to offer to send the equipment, and I’m going to guess in the end that cost would be well into seven figures.

  2. I am very impressed with NBC Sports. The INDYCAR programming, in my strongest opinion, is first class and I am enjoying the NHL coverage even though the Predators are now down 2 games to Phoenix. Also, I am more impressed with the “new” car after this weekend. It comes off as tough and it set a course record this past weekend by Will Power. Speedy.

    On to Indianapolis!!

  3. Bia might be the best female driver in the series, I hope she does well at Indy. That would’ve been a good race if they made Will Power stay in Indianapolis at the studio.

    • Sorry but I think she is a ticking timebomb in the car. Simona is leaps better than her but loyal to her team so she is eating ribber in the back ot the pack.

      After Ana took Will Power out of the title I became a hater. She has done NOTHING to prove worthy of an Andretti ride!

  4. Ron Ford Says:

    George, I think the NASHVILLE Chamber of Commerce should give you an award or better yet, cash, for continuing to promote the fair city of NASHVILLE. Thanks for reminding us that Dario is returning to his home in NASHVILLE and Josef Newgarden is from NASHVILLE. Aren’t those Predators from down that way someplace also?

    Seriously, thanks for your usual fine recap job. I enjoyed the race for the most part except that so many of my personal favorites were taken out of contention by accidents. I say out of contention instead of out of the race because these new cars seem to be a good deal tougher than the previous version.

    And yes, one really has to give Will Power his due. He is just really damn good on those twisties.

    Well, tomorrow is May 1, my bronze badge just came in the mail, and I am stoked. Let the games begin!

    A footnote: RC Cola has been named as the official “Coke” for the Milwaukee Mile. I thought you would appreciate that:)

  5. Carburetor Says:

    It must be really disheartening to be a race driver or a race team, knowing that no matter how good of a job you do, since you are driving with a Lotus engine, you do not have a chance of even smelling the podium, let alone standing on it….. there are some good drivers that must be hoping for brighter futures some day–even if it is with Chevy hand-me-downs…..

  6. Sad that I overslept and missed everything except the last lap! Sounds like I didn’t miss much, though. I am a little tired of Power destroying the field, but on the other hand, he’s not a former IRL guy. Penske picked him up, I’m just guessing here, because he showed that he was spectacular on road courses before and after the open wheel merger. So, you put the best road racer in the series on the best team with the best engine, duh, this is what you get. I have a feeling his number is up, though. Indy is looming, and there are about a dozen drivers out there who are better in Speedway than Power. However, if his car somehow gets to skip a pit stop, watch out. Bring on Indy!

  7. Dear George, I didn’t see the broadcast in English (actually I watched only laps 35-45 and nothing else). But I agree with NBC Sports: Bia didn’t hope for a win, she dreamed about it. No matter she drove for Andretti, she wasn’t a serious candidate. Good luck!

  8. Savage Henry Says:

    George, no mention of Sato’s 25th to 3rd drive? He even achieved that with a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. I’d call that the drive of the day, especially with the move on the restart where he threw the car into Turn 1 sideways and made it stick. That was an all-or-nothing move if I’ve ever seen one. I’m happy he made it stick because if he didn’t we would have a whole week of “Sato is too agressive and reckless and took out the whole front of the field…”. Power had a great drive but it would have been more of a surprise if he hadn’t won.

    I’m phyched to get into May now. Hopefully we’ll see some teams flip the script, exceed expectations, and stop this Death Star domination.

  9. I’m suppose to be excited about Indycar going from Big Three, to Big Two, to Big One… yeah, not happening

    • in other sports, total domination is publicized and praised–the Yankees, Celtics, Lakers, Muhammad Ali, racehorses, Federer, DiMaggio, Mark Spitz, Jimmy Johnson, the 60’s Packers, the 70’s Steelers, Joe Louis, USA Olympic Basketball–but in INDYCAR I guess it’s just another negative signpost on the road to doom and gloom.

      • In other sports, all teams except the Lions win at least one game a year too, so…

        • redcar Says:

          but other teams will win,it’s just that power/penske is dominant. and I look forward to seeing who will finally beat them. and if penske (and almost power) goes undefeated, then that would be quite a feat.

  10. Steve K Says:

    I think Dixon had the most frustrating day. He seems to be the only guy who has anything for Power and lost a ton of ground for the second race in a row. I hate to say it but the Championship is probably over. Power is king.

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