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Power-ful return to IndyCar

Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor

The Inside Line Sao Paulo, Brazil (Sports Network) - Seven months after suffering back injuries in a practice crash at Sonoma, CA, Will Power made an impressive comeback in the IZOD IndyCar Series by winning the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300 in Brazil.

Power turned in a gutsy performance in the series' season-opener and first race held in a South American country. The 29-year-old Aussie avoided a five- car pileup on the opening lap and then endured rainy conditions for a majority of the event before passing Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead in the closing minutes to claim his second career IndyCar victory.

"It was probably the most mixed up race that I have ever been in, but it created an opportunity for me to come back through the field and end up winning the race," Power said. "I think it was just a really good day for racing. If you were fast you could pass, because there is such a good track layout here. I'm pretty sure it was an exciting race for the fans."

Power undoubtedly had a dramatic day from start to finish on the Sao Paulo street circuit.

For the first time in series history, both qualifying and the race were held on the same day. A bumpy surface and slick concrete along the front straightaway led to unsafe race conditions and forced Indy Racing League officials to postpone Saturday's schedule qualifying until the following day. Track personnel made improvements in time for Sunday morning's "warm-up" practice session.

Power missed the final practice due to a faulty gearbox, but after his Penske team managed to correct the issue in time for qualifying, he managed to earn the fifth starting position.

By the time Power parked into victory lane, his hands were severely blistered from driving on one of the most physically demanding courses.

Will Power made an impressive comeback in the IZOD IndyCar Series by winning the inaugural Sao Paulo Indy 300.
"I was really proud of my guys for the job they did to get us ready for qualifying," Power said. "They really were great all day. It was a long day with qualifying and the race all in just a few hours, but we were able to come out alright in the end."

Vitor Meira almost enjoyed the same triumphant return as Power did in Brazil. Meira also sustained a season-ending injury from a horrifying crash in last year's Indianapolis 500. With a third-place run, he was the highest finisher among the seven Brazilians who competed in front of their home crowd.

"It couldn't be much better than that," Meira said. "I think Will can relate to it with a back injury and all that. It gets pretty uncertain at some times and having a team behind you making sure that the seat is available, it makes a big difference during the recovery."

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Power left KV Racing Technology and joined Penske to serve as substitute driver for Helio Castroneves until his federal tax evasion problems were resolved. Power drove Castroneves' car to a sixth-place finish in last year's season-opener in St. Petersburg, FL.

When Castroneves was acquitted and showed up in time for the second race of the season in Long Beach, CA, Power moved into a third Penske entry and ran a limited schedule from there. But Power continued to be one of the hottest drivers in IndyCar with sensational performances at Long Beach, Indianapolis, Toronto and Edmonton, where he recorded his first series win.

This year, Power joins Ryan Briscoe and Castroneves in Penske's stable of full-time drivers. The team has not been a three-car operation since 1994 when Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy finished 1-2-3, respectively in points.

With Power's full-time status, Penske will be Chip Ganassi Racing's biggest threat in IndyCar this season. Reigning series champion Dario Franchitti and 2008 titleholder Scott Dixon are considered as the top-two contenders for this year's title, but after winning in Brazil, Power moves right up there with both Ganassi drivers in the championship ranks.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Chris Symeon at csymeon@sportsnetwork.com.

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