SAO PAULO (AP) - Helio Castroneves can’t count on home advantage against rival and teammate Will Power at the Sao Paulo 300 on Sunday.
Castroneves, the IndyCar Series leader, is one of the home-crowd favorites in Brazil. But it’s his Penske teammate from Australia who arrives as the heavy favorite to win on the streets of Sao Paulo after capturing all three races at the temporary Anhembi track.
While Castroneves has had the best start of his career after three straight top-10 finishes, he will have to get past the “King of Sao Paulo” to improve his chances of staying atop the drivers’ standings following Sunday’s race.
“We will try to stop him this time,” Castroneves said about Power. “But if we can’t do that, hopefully we can at least keep the points lead.”
There should be even more challengers to Castroneves‘ lead this time, as three drivers have won this season. Two of them celebrated victory for the first time _ Takuma Sato and James Hinchcliffe. Ryan Hunter-Reay was the other winner.
“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. “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.”
But the Australian has had an unusually poor start to his season on road and street circuits. He is winless in the series since his victory in Brazil last year, 14 races ago. He has had only one top-five finish this year and is eighth in the drivers’ standings, 37 point behind Castroneves.
“The first three races have been interesting,” Power said. “We’ve had the pace this year but haven’t been able to put it together. I’ve had some success here at this track, but the competition will be tight. It will be tough to get a good result this weekend.”
Power said finishing well in Brazil is crucial to put him in position to start fighting for the championship.
“My mindset for this race is the same as I have every weekend,” Power said. “I need a good weekend to score points for the championship and get the most out of everything. I’ll do my absolute best this weekend.”
By contrast, Castroneves has been consistently fast and running near the front in all three races so far. He enters the event with a six-point lead over Sato, the winner in Long Beach two weeks ago.
“I hadn’t even realized at first but this has been my best start to a season ever,” said Castroneves, who is still seeking his first series title. “I made a mistake in the first race, I should have won that one. But we have been really consistent.”
Castroneves was second in the season opener in St. Petersburg, losing the lead to Hinchcliffe after a poor restart in the final laps. The Brazilian finished third in Alabama and managed a 10th-place finish in Long Beach despite having to make an extra pit stop to replace a damaged front wing.
Castroneves is one of only three drivers with top-10 finishes in all races this year.