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Hunter-Reay has another solid run at Sao Paulo 300

Sunday - 4/29/2012, 8:56pm  ET

By TALES AZZONI
AP Sports Writer

SAO PAULO (AP) - Ryan Hunter-Reay said his second-place finish Sunday in the Sao Paulo 300 shows he is on the right track to contend for the IndyCar championship at the end of the year.

Hunter-Reay is leaving Brazil without the victory after failing to catch winner Will Power at the Anhembi track on the streets of Sao Paulo, but he's "happy to take the points."

"We are certainly focusing on the championship this year, we are points-racing and we've done a good job at that this year so far," he said. "Last year at this time I think we were 20th in points heading into Indianapolis."

Hunter-Reay came into Brazil in sixth place and moved to fourth with his solid run with Andretti Autosport.

"That's the way we wanted to start the season and if we just keep consistently finishing on the podium, finishing in the top five like we have been, then I think everything will be very good with three or four races left to go. So we take it one lap at a time, one race at a time."

The American also finished on the podium in the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, then was 12th in Alabama and sixth in Long Beach two weeks ago.

Hunter-Reay also was second in the inaugural Sao Paulo 300 in 2010.

"As a team, we absolutely love this track," he said. "We've been very good here every time we come. It's been a strong event for us, and once again, we were pretty strong today."

Power was the one who beat him in 2010 too, and Hunter-Reay says the Australian will be the driver to beat for the championship this year after winning three of the first four races.

"If it weren't for Will Power, I'd have a quite a few more wins on my resume, for sure, so I'm not happy about it," Hunter-Reay said. "But we need to beat him. That's the bottom line and we're trying our best. They've got something working right now, and they're taking advantage of it."

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FINISHING STRONG: Canadian James Hinchcliffe finished in the top six for the fourth straight time to start the season, moving him from fifth to third in the IndyCar points standings. He is the only driver to finish all races sixth or better.

"It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride," he said. "We had a decent starting position but the first stint was shocking. We didn't have the right car for the really slick conditions in the beginning and we fell like a stone."

Hinchcliffe dropped to 12th at the start of the race after starting fourth but was able to find his way back to the front.

"It's all perspective," he said. "If you had told us before the race started that we were going to finish sixth I would have been pretty disappointed, but if you told me after the first (pit) stop that we were going to finish sixth I probably would have been pretty pleased with that. We'll take the finish and take the points."

Hinchcliffe also is the only driver to reach the Fast Six qualifying round in all four races.

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WINNING CHEVY: Chevrolet came out on top in the battle against Honda at the Sao Paulo 300.

Seven of the top 10 drivers Sunday were using Chevrolet engines, including winner Will Power and three of the top five.

It was the first race Honda was allowed to make changes to the turbochargers on its engines, giving the six teams using them an extra boost of power. Honda was permitted to make the changes after a three-person panel on Thursday upheld an IndyCar decision against an appeal by Chevrolet.

"We are so proud of the efforts of all the Chevrolet teams," said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing IZOD IndyCar Series Program Manager. "With Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves bringing home top-five finishes as well, it is a testimony to the determination, dedication and depth of talent of our teams and technical partners in the IZOD IndyCar Series."

Hunter-Reay was second on Sunday and Castroneves fourth.

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DELAYED CELEBRATION: It took a while before Will Power could start celebrating after winning the Sao Paulo 300.

Power and the other podium finishers _ second-place Ryan Hunter-Reay and third-place Takuma Sato _ were given beer bottles from a local sponsor instead of champagne, but none could get them to open.

The three tried everything _ pulling, twisting and even hitting on the cap. But no luck.

Laughing, they had to ask for help, and after a few awkward moments that seemed to last forever, a Penske team member came with an opener to let the celebrations begin.

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni


(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)