Team Penske’s Will Power is taking a year-long winless streak into this weekend’s IZOD IndyCar Series race at Sao Paulo, but championship leader Helio Castroneves isn’t about to discount his Australian teammate’s chances of rallying for a big win before the all-important Indianapolis 500.
“There’s been a lot of competition this year, even more than in the past, so it’s hard to say there’s a favorite for Sunday’s race,” Castroneves said at a pre-event press conference according to the Associated Press’ Tales Azzoni. “But you can’t avoid talking about my teammate as the top contender; there’s no doubt he has been really successful here in the past.”
Ain’t that the truth. Power has claimed all three editions of the Sao Paulo Indy 300 at Anhembi Park and last year, he won from pole last while leading the most laps (63 of 75). Even with his shaky start to 2013, he’s definitely still a contender at this track.
But Castroneves appears poised to be the one that can finally dust Power in Brazil. He’s one of just three drivers in the series to post Top 10 runs in all three races (the others being Marco Andretti and Justin Wilson) this season, and jumped 14 positions to finish fourth last year in Sao Paulo.
“I hadn’t even realized at first but this has been my best start to a season ever,” said Castroneves. “I made a mistake in the first race — I should have won that one. But we have been really consistent.”
Consistency aside, a victory in his hometown of Sao Paulo would put him in solid position to become the fourth four-time winner of the Indy 500 later on this month.
Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.
The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.
Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.
Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.
“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”
Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”
Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.
The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.