SAO PAULO, Brazil, Sunday, April 29, 2012 – Sam Schmidt Motorsports (SSM) General Manager Rob Edwards summed up Sunday’s IZOD IndyCar Series race best when he said, “That was a long day and a lot of hard work for a P12 finish.”
As the fourth race on the schedule, Sunday’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle proved that SSM driver Simon Pagenaud and the crew of the No. 77 Coastal.com/Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car have a ‘never give-up’ attitude that they plan on carrying to the season’s end.
Pagenaud started the 75-lap race on Sao Paulo’s 11-turn temporary street circuit in 16th after struggling in practice and qualifying on Saturday. Like they’ve done before this year, the team poured over data and driver feedback and worked late into the night to make changes on the car in time for the race.
Just like his crew the night before, Pagenaud had to work overtime in the car Sunday during the race to salvage the 12th-place finish. Twice, he was collected in the accidents of other drivers requiring him to race his way back through the field.
“It was a long day, but the good point was that we were able to get the car right for the race,” said Pagenaud. “We had a really strong race car. It was our first time here in Sao Paulo and it took us a little while to understand what it was I needed, but I ended up being really, really happy in the race car.
“We were making progress until I had to go through the run off and basically lose a lot of positions. Everything went down hill from there. We got hit. I lost my wing twice. Then in the end, we lost a lap when we were collected in that last wreck. If there is a wreck in front of you in the chicane, there is no way to avoid it. It’s a shame and that’s why we need to start ahead of the pack in the future.”
Though he finished out of the top 10, Pagenaud’s 12th-place finish keeps him in fifth-place in the IndyCar championship.
“I’m glad we’re still in a good position in the championship going into Indy,” said Pagenaud. “I’m new to Indy, so now I can start focusing on that race and not worry about points. I’ll be doing a lot of thinking on Indy the next few weeks.”
Brazil is Power’s 18th career Indy car win and his third in Sao Paulo.
For Edwards, he was not happy with the 12th-place finish, but he is very pleased with the team’s ability to not give up under adversity, which they have experienced often in 2012.
“Hats off to the guys on the crew and up in the timing stand because we had a good race car again,” said Edwards. The strategy in the first stint worked fantastically well. I think we were up to P7 and we were getting great pit stops from the guys, but we couldn’t get through other people’s messes in Turn 1 and Turn 2. We fought all day. Simon ran great all day. We’re still fifth in points and the top Honda going in to Indy, and those were two goals we had at the beginning of the season.”
Team Penske continued its domination of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series by winning Sunday’s Itaipava Sao Paulo Indy 300 with driver Will Power. The team has won the first four races of the season. It’s the first time in the team’s history it has won the first four races to open a season.
After Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves won the season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla., teammate Power has ripped off three wins in a row.
Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay continues to run strong in 2012. He chased Power across the line for a second-place finish. It is his second straight podium finish.
Scoring the first podium finish of his IndyCar Series career was Rahal Letterman Racing’s Takuma Sato. Rounding out the top five were Castroneves and Ganassi Racing’s Dario Franchitti.
Five caution periods allowed the yellow flag to wave for 15 laps. There were five lead changes among five drivers. Power led an impressive 63 laps.
On the strength of his back-to-back-to-back wins, Power leaves Brazil with a 45-point lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship over teammate Castroneves (180-135). Andretti Autosport’s James Hinchcliffe is third with 123, while his teammate Hunter-Reay trails him in fourth with 121. Pagenaud rounds out the top five with 118.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series event is the 96th running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on May 27, with Pole Day qualifying on May 19th.