The Sao Paulo Indy 300 received a new champion this afternoon, but to the chagrin of the Brazilian fans in attendance at Anhembi Park, it wasn’t one of their own.
KV Racing Technology’s Tony Kanaan (pictured) had the best shot to give those fans a home victory. Torn ligaments in his right hand didn’t stop the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion from making his way to the lead at Lap 10, which triggered a loud response from his countrymen in the stands.
Kanaan lost the lead on pit road during a caution period, but still managed to stay toward the front until he once again re-assumed the point at Lap 45 with a cross-over move on Ryan Hunter-Reay coming out of Turn 11.
However, former teammate Marco Andretti wrestled the lead from him shortly after, and on Lap 51, Kanaan suddenly slowed down and eventually crawled to a stop on the Sambadromo frontstretch with his car out of fuel. What had appeared to be a potential win eventually became a 21st place finish, three laps down.
But at least he had some time at the front of the field unlike his compatriots, Helio Castroneves and Ana Beatriz, who both had an unhappy homecoming.
Starting 18th, Castroneves had contact with teammate Will Power in the opening stint and then spun out following contact with Scott Dixon in Turn 2 on a Lap 27 restart. His long day continued on Lap 40, when Sebastien Bourdais hit him and triggered a multi-car stack-up that also involved Simon Pagenaud, J.R. Hildebrand and Charlie Kimball.
He would eventually come home in 13th place, falling from first to third in the championship behind race runner-up Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti as the Indianapolis 500 looms.
Beatriz, driving for Dale Coyne Racing, was the day’s first casualty as she suffered a terminal mechanical failure on her No. 18 Honda at Lap 7.
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.