Hinchcliffe takes duel with Sato for Sao Paulo triumph

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James Hinchcliffe pulled off a cross-over move on Takuma Sato in the final corner to win today’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 and become the first repeat winner of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.

On the last lap, Hinchcliffe attempted to get past Sato on the backstretch but was denied by the Japanese racer. However, when the two came toward the right-hand hairpin at Turn 11, Sato briefly lost the back end of his car and Hinchcliffe then moved to the inside of him to make the pass and nab his second career IndyCar victory.

“There’s no cooler way to win a race than on the last corner on the last lap,” a happy Hinchcliffe told NBC Sports Network’s Kevin Lee. “Hell of a job Taku did to get up there — he was making that race car really wide, and we both had one push-to-pass left coming to that last corner.

“He’d been defending the inside pretty well, almost too well a couple of times. But he just out-broke himself a little bit. I knew he was gonna go deep, and we were able to ‘high-low’ him and get the win.”

Sato had raced Hinchcliffe particularly hard in the final laps, especially when the latter seemed set to pass him going down the nearly one- mile-long backstretch. Race Control actually stepped in to review Sato’s driving, but ultimately decided not to take any action.

Even though he came up one spot short in the end, Sato will be able to take the IZOD IndyCar Series points lead into the Indianapolis 500 by 13 points over Marco Andretti. After the race, he and Hinchcliffe embraced briefly after their frenzied battle.

“Hinch did a great manuever,” Sato told Lee. “…We didn’t think we had a car today that was capable for a win. But what a strong day for the A.J. Foyt Racing team — I’m really happy, the guys did a really nice job.”

As for Andretti, he managed to race to third at the checkered flag, claiming his second podium of the season and continuing his dramatic turnaround on road and street circuits.

“It was just about conserving the Push-to-Pass [boosts] for when it counts,” the American said of his day to Lee. “In the end, I was using them when people weren’t expecting me to use them so I could kind of snooker them. But looking from Practice One, I’m quite pleased with where we ended up today.”

Oriol Servia finished fourth in a great effort for Panther DRR as they now head for what may be the final race of their 2013 campaign at Indianapolis. Josef Newgarden had a shot a victory in the closing stages, but was unable to hang on and faded back to fifth; however, it’s still the Tennessee native’s best career result in the series.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Sao Paulo Indy 300
Final Results

Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any)
1. (5) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
2. (12) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
3. (10) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
4. (13) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
5. (25) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
6. (2) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
7. (3) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
8. (8) Simona de Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
9. (23) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
10. (17) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
11. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
12. (15) Alex Tagliani, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
13. (18) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
14. (7) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
15. (11) JR Hildebrand, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
16. (21) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
17. (24) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
18. (6) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 75, Running
19. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 75, Running
20. (9) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 73, Running
21. (4) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 72, Running
22. (19) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 71, Running
23. (14) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 71, Running
24. (22) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 17, Mechanical
25. (16) Ana Beatriz, Dallara-Honda, 6, Mechanical

Race Statistics: Winners average speed: 88.070 mph; Time of Race: 02:09:34.7383; Margin of victory: 0.3463 of a second; Cautions: 7 for 19 laps; Lead changes: 9 among 7 drivers

Lap Leaders: Hunter-Reay 1 – 9, Kanaan 10 – 20, Bourdais 21 – 33, Sato 34 – 37, Hunter-Reay 38 – 44, Kanaan 45, Andretti 46 – 52, Hildebrand 53 – 56, Sato 57 – 74, Hinchcliffe 75

Point Standings: Sato 136, Andretti 123, Castroneves 116, Hinchcliffe 112, Dixon 101, Hunter-Reay 94, Wilson 91, Servia 89, de Silvestro 86, Kimball 80.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Remaining part-time drivers

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MotorSportsTalk wraps up its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017 with the remaining part-time drivers, after the 23 drivers who ran anywhere from six events to the full season.

There were 15 drivers who made four or fewer starts this season. Some overly impressed or drew major headlines in their limited opportunities.

They were, by start count:

  • Sebastian Saavedra (No. 17 Juncos Racing Chevrolet, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 4)
  • Gabby Chaves (No. 88 Harding Racing Chevrolet, 3)
  • Oriol Servia (No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 3)
  • Jack Harvey (No. 50 MSR w/Andretti Autosport Honda, No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, 3)
  • Juan Pablo Montoya (No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, 2)
  • Zach Veach (No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, No. 40 A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet, 2)
  • Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti Honda, 1)
  • Pippa Mann (No. 63 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Jay Howard (No. 77 Team One Cure/SPM Honda, 1)
  • Sage Karam (No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, 1)
  • James Davison (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Tristan Vautier (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 1)
  • Buddy Lazier (No. 44 Lazier Racing Partners Chevrolet, 1)
  • Zachary Claman DeMelo (No. 13 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, 1)
  • Robert Wickens (No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, Practice Only)

Going through them, in terms of impact, Alonso’s one-off at the Indianapolis 500 easily resonated loudest. It was incredible to witness the amount of buzz, worldwide support and media attention that Alonso generated, and fueled a running joke that he was the only driver in this year’s race. It was capped off when he beat Ed Jones to race rookie-of-the-year honors, despite losing a Honda engine late while Jones dragged a broken Dale Coyne Racing car to third place.

Elsewhere, Chaves and Harding Racing’s debut was the most unexpected pleasant surprise from a driver and team standpoint. A solid ninth at Indianapolis was followed by an even more impressive fifth at Texas. Their three oval races laid the groundwork for a step-up to a full-time entry in 2018.

Montoya proved he still had it with a pair of top-10s in a fifth Team Penske car. He’ll be in Penske’s Acura prototype sports car program next year and the hope is that we haven’t seen the last of him in IndyCar.

Saavedra re-established himself on the scene after a year-plus hiatus. The likable Colombian overachieved given low expectations with two different teams. Whether it was enough to see him and longtime backer AFS Racing for further races in 2018 is unknown.

Harvey and Veach each came up to IndyCar for a cup of coffee, both rookies in the Indianapolis 500 alongside Alonso and Jones while also getting additional road course starts. Neither of them looked a world-beater in their road course outings owing to tough circumstances, but they logged key laps and miles to build for a brighter future from 2018 and beyond in recently announced multi-year programs (Harvey with Michael Shank Racing and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Veach with Andretti Autosport).

Of the rest, Servia’s results left a bit to be desired, a potential top-five fading in Indy when he and Davison collided to trigger a multi-car pileup. Davison and Vautier impressed in their lone starts of the year with their pace and aggression but were unable to parlay them into results.

Mann made her usual Indy 500 one-off entry and secured her best finish in six starts, but pressed through a challenging month that she’ll be keen to improve upon in 2018. Her day was significantly better than Howard’s and Lazier’s, who both ended their ‘500 bows in the wall, and with Howard having contributed to Scott Dixon’s savage accident when he crashed in Turn 1 and then came into Dixon’s path.

“ZCD” made his debut at Sonoma in a second RLL Racing entry and did rather well, competitive on lap times as the weekend progressed on a track that’s notoriously low-grip. Wickens never got that far. Despite a preseason ride swap with his close friend James Hinchcliffe that reignited his passion for open-wheel after several years, and with Mercedes announcing it would pull the plug on its DTM program after 2018, Wickens got only a practice day at Road America before Mikhail Aleshin sorted his visa issues. The circumstances evolved in Wickens’ favor at season’s end to see him get the second seat for 2018 at SPM after all.