Sao Paulo Indy 300

SPOILER: IndyCar at Sao Paulo qualifying

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Andretti Autosport locked down the front row for tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300, with reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay winning his second pole of the season by three-tenths of a second over teammate E.J. Viso in the Firestone Fast Six.

Hunter-Reay will look to bounce back from a dismal 24th place result two weeks ago at Long Beach, and his pole in Brazil could be a sign of things to come. In the second round of the season at Barber Motorsports Park, the American racer converted a pole position into a victory.

As for Viso, the P2 effort earns him his best-ever start in the IZOD IndyCar Series, topping his previous best of fourth from 2009 at Long Beach.

Dario Franchitti will look to continue his climb out of an early-season slump from the third starting position and will be in Row 2 alongside crowd favorite Tony Kanaan. A third Andretti Autosport driver, James Hinchcliffe, starts fifth and Franchitti’s Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, Scott Dixon, goes off sixth.

The Team Penske duo of Helio Castroneves and Will Power were shut out of the Firestone Fast Six after failing to advance out of the first round of qualifying. Both drivers were in the second qualifying group in Round 1 and both were on the outside looking in when an apparent mechanical failure forced James Jakes to stop his No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda on course. The incident brought out a red flag that would end the 10-minute session, and now Castroneves and Power will have to charge from the rear of the field tomorrow.

Also facing tough climbs tomorrow are youngsters Tristan Vautier and Josef Newgarden. In Round 1, rookie pilot Vautier got up and over the curbing at Turn 2, then slammed into the outside wall to cause considerable damage to his No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Honda. As for Newgarden, who was second in today’s first practice session, he was unable to qualify for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing due to an engine change.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300
Qualifying Results

Qualifying position, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses
1. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.4312 (113.508)
2. (5) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.7380 (113.077)
3. (10) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 01:20.8922 (112.861)
4. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.9812 (112.737)
5. (27) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.9893 (112.726)
6. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.1183 (112.547)
7. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.8210 (112.961)
8. (78) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 01:20.9390 (112.796)
9. (19) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.0570 (112.632)
10. (25) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 01:21.1716 (112.473)
11. (4) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 01:21.2961 (112.301)
12. (14) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.3618 (112.210)
13. (22) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 01:21.7963 (111.614)
14. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 01:24.0203 (108.659)
15. (98) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 01:21.8636 (111.522)
16. (18) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 01:24.8864 (107.551)
17. (83) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 01:22.2482 (111.001)
18. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 01:25.1734 (107.188)
19. (15) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 01:22.2998 (110.931)
20. (6) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 04:00.2612 (37.999)
21. (55) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 03:20.5417 (45.525)
22. (12) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 04:05.5886 (37.174)
23. (67) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, No Time (No Speed)
24. (77) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 04:23.1097 (34.699)
25. (16) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, No Time (No Speed)

Watch tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

NHRA: Looking at where things stand at midpoint of Countdown

Top Fuel's Antron Brown has been the most dominant driver in the current NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
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The NHRA is now halfway through its six-race Countdown to the Championship and there have been a number of surprises – both good and bad – thus far.

When the series gets back to racing next weekend at Texas Motorplex in Ennis, Texas, those drivers who have dominated their respective categories in the Countdown so far stand a good chance of pulling away.

Not to mention potentially see several drivers start falling by the wayside and be eliminated.

Let’s take a look at each of the four pro classes and analyze the haves and have not’s thus far:


Biggest surprise: Antron Brown. It’s not so much a surprise that Brown is leading the standings, but it’s more so the way he’s doing it. The 2012 Top Fuel champ has been on fire, having won all of the first three Countdown races and a personal-best seven races overall this season. Brown set a NHRA record of 12-0 in final elimination rounds this past Sunday at Reading, Pa. You can’t get much more perfect than that. Brown has been so dominating that only teammate and defending eight-time champ Tony Schumacher is within reach points-wise. The other eight drivers still in contention are between 194 and 274 points behind. At the rate he’s going, Brown could potentially clinch the championship in the second-to-last race at Las Vegas.

You Go Girl: Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, has been a surprising upstart in the Countdown. While she’s 194 points behind Brown, Force is ranked third heading to Texas. She’s shown significant confidence and moxie in the first three races and if she keeps it up, she could potentially overtake Schumacher at some point for second place.

Different Team, Same Drive: Shawn Langdon lost his ride at the worst possible time, just before the Countdown began, when team owner Alan Johnson suspended operations. But give credit to fellow team owner Don Schumacher, who “borrowed” Langdon from Johnson for the Chase to replace Spencer Massey, who was released just before the Chase. Langdon has done well, but time is running out if he hopes to make one last shot to win yet another championship.


Biggest surprise: Del Worsham won the first two races of the Countdown and appears headed towards becoming only the third driver in NHRA history to win both a Top Fuel and Funny Car championship in his career. Worsham has been absolutely solid this season.

That’s The Fact, Jack: Jack Beckman has enjoyed arguably the best season of his career, a complete turnaround from last year’s draining struggle. Having left John Force at the end of last season, co-crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and John Medlen have reinvigorated both Beckman and his car. Worsham has been strong, but Beckman is only a mere 16 points back in second place. And with his win this past Sunday at Reading, momentum could potentially turn in Beckman’s direction heading to Texas.

The Numbers Game: Kudos to third-ranked Matt Hagan (90 points behind Worsham) and fourth-ranked Tommy Johnson Jr. (-98) for their strong efforts in the Countdown. Ditto for Ron Capps (105 points behind Worsham) and John Force (-150), who are both still within striking distance. However, two drivers have uncharacteristically struggled thus far in the Countdown: Alexis De Joria (ranked ninth, 207 points back) and Robert Hight (10th, 221 points back). Unless they right their respective ships, they run the risk of being eliminated at Las Vegas.


Biggest Surprise: Chris McGaha (third, 104 points behind series leader Erica Enders) and rookie Drew Skillman (sixth, -173) have definitely opened eyes this season, with each earning wins thus far in the Countdown. Also enjoying a strong run in the Countdown and a welcome resurgence overall this season is veteran racer Larry Morgan (fourth, 145 points back). Enders could potentially have her hands full in the final three races to keep these three hungry drivers at bay.

You Go Girl: Defending champ Enders has looked cool, calm and collected – just like she did en route to becoming the first female Pro Stock champ last season. With a 72-point lead over former champ Greg Anderson, Enders has become one of the best drivers when it comes to reaction times at the starting line, having won close to a dozen or more rounds just because she got the jump on her opponent at the so-called “Christmas tree.”


Biggest surprise: It would be hard to find two riders who have not been more surprising than Hector Arana Jr. (ranked third, 101 points back) and Louisiana alligator farmer Jerry Savoie (fourth, 119 points back). Arana is one of the most promising young riders on the circuit, while Savoie – after a 30-year layoff from racing – is proving that 53 (years old) is the new 23.

Back in the saddle again: Andrew Hines is gunning for his fifth bike championship, and second straight, and has done what he’s needed to do thus far in the Countdown. While Arana and second-ranked Eddie Krawiec (-89) are proving to be formidable foes, Hines appears to be ready to start pulling further away for the title.

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NHRA: New book a celebration of life, love and drag racing

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The overpowering smell from nitromethane that powers Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the National Hot Rod Association oftentimes brings fans to tears after getting a whiff of the stuff.

Now there’s a new inspirational book that will also bring tears to the eyes of die-hard drag racing fans.

Veteran crew chief Jim Oberhofer has released “Top Fuel For Life, Life Lessons From A Crew Chief,” a touching homage to both his late wife and persevering and overcoming adversity in the highly competitive world of NHRA drag racing.

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Oberhofer wears a number of hats as vice president of one of the sport’s most veteran and successful teams, Kalitta Motorsports, including serving as crew chief for Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta’s dragster.

Oberhofer relates a number of stories about overcoming adversity in the book, but none more touching than how he watched his beloved wife “Tammy O” lose a long and painful battle to stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.

While Oberhofer has spent his life using wrenches and tools working on 10,000-horsepower engines, his new book shows that he is also a very gifted writer.

Known in the sport as “Jim O,” Oberhofer describes the fight his wife went through in gritty and descriptive prose, but with a foundation built upon what the love of his life meant to him – and continues to mean to him more than two years since she passed away.

“When you take a long hard look at your life, I guarantee you that being a winner has little to do with crossing the finish line,” Oberhofer said. “After many mistakes and a whole lot of heartache, I learned that happiness comes from a deeper, simpler place. That’s the big win.”

“Top Fuel For Life” is available on Amazon for $19.95.

Follow @JerryBonkowski