Ryan Hunter-Reay didn't get the best of starts to the next few days that will decide whether he emerges as the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, or as runner-up to Penske's Will Power.
Midway through a day of testing arranged by the series at Auto Club Speedway, Fontana in California, Ryan Hunter-Reay spun the #28 Andretti Autsports car and ended up in the wall in turn 2 of the two-mile oval, that will be the setting for this weekend's season finale.
"The car was pretty loose on the first run and we went for a second run on it," explained Hunter-Reay. "We probably got a little greedy with it as light as we were running on downforce. Just came around. Qualifying trim. It happens. It's part of it. The good news is the car is not that bad."
There was some suspension damage to the left hand side of the car, and the team also had to change the Chevrolet engine installed in the car as a result of its backwards skid and jarring impact.
Hunter-Reay himself was uninjured, save for a bump to the knee, and said that thanks to having his team mates James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti also at work at Fontana on Wednesday as well as the Andretti-AFS Racing co-entry driven by Sebastian Saavedra, the loss of track time was little more than a minor inconvenience.
"We still have two team cars still pounding around and we'll get back out there today, I'm hoping," he said, dismissing the incident as "not that big of a setback" and adding that he hoped the early crash meant that he had "got it out of the way" for the rest of the upcoming race weekend.
Even if Hunter-Reay has a ten-place grid penalty for the start of Saturday night's race, this will not be as big a handicap to him on an oval as it would be at a road or street course race and could be quickly overcome, especially with the season finale being a marathon 500 mile event, the first in either IndyCar or Champ Car other than the Indianapolis 500 for a decade.
Ganassi driver Scott Dixon also hit problems at Fontana, suffering a failure of his Honda engine just seven laps into his track time. The crew changed the unit and had him back out on track before the scheduled 8pm end of the test day.
Dixon was able to return and go on and run a total of 131 laps, setting the fastest time of the test day with a lap of 215.861mph a little over an hour before the end of the session, ahead of Marco Andretti whose time of 215.779mph had been set mid-afternoon.