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Hunter-Reay wins amid controversy

"We had a problem with the exhaust and that burned the bodywork on the engine of the car," said Tagliani. "It's a shame ... We seemed to have a good car early on and made up some positions. Then we lost the balance and the car went really loose and we lost positions.

The two main problems now facing the surviving cars were the need for one final round of pit stops, together with the ever-present threat of rain. The two problems were also connected: pit too early, and if the rain came down and forced the curtailment of the race then the cars that had stayed out the longest could luck into the win.

Hunter-Reay stayed out as long as he could, but on lap 165 it was time for him to pit. That put Dixon briefly back in the lead but two laps later he was in too. That rewarded Will Power with the lead for the first time all afternoon, and the Penske team was performing every rain dance under the sun in pit road to try and get the race called during the next dozen laps.

Instead, the drizzle remained stubbornly light and there was no sign of a caution or an early chequered, so on lap 179 Power hit pit road as well - leaving the lead to Takuma Sato. Now it was KVRT's turn to appeal to the rain gods, but they had no better luck - and on lap 192 he too had to take to pit road, and the danger for Ryan Hunter-Reay was over as he resumed the top spot with a huge sigh of relief.

As luck would have it, the drizzle started to pick up almost immediately the pit stops were over and done with, and on lap 206 it was enough to force race control to throw the sixth caution of the afternoon. With conditions looking set, it seemed as though the fans would be denied a thrilling finish and the cars would circulate for the remaining 19 laps behind the safety car until a meek parade past the chequered flag.

Then word came down that there would be a restart with ten laps to go: race control, it seemed, was determined to put on a show for the trackside fans and for the TV viewers that they hoped they had inherited after the earlier rain postponement of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen.

Teams and drivers were incredulous at the decision to go yellow, when in their view the conditions were no better - possibly even worse - than when the original caution had come out. The teams all protested, and the drivers were on team radios livid at being told to prepare to go green, but race control made the call and the green flag came out.

It took barely a second before Danica Patrick spun coming onto the straightaway, unleashing a knock-on accident that caught up Will Power, Takuma Sato, Ed Carpenter and most of the field in some way or other. The track immediately went yellow again; a few minutes later the red flag came out, recalling all the cars that were still-running into pit road to stand-by for a decision on a restart once the clear-up was complete.

Will Power would not be one of the cars lining up for any restart - after spinning to avoid Patrick and Ryan Briscoe he had ended up getting collected by Carpenter and the damage to the #12 was too bad to repair in time. It seemed that his chances of cutting the championship lead to Franchitti had just been shattered.

Safe to say, Power went ballistic, charging around looking like he dearly wanted to find someone from race control to punch in the face, finally settling for directing a couple of obscene gestures in the general direction of the IndyCar officials' observation post - unfortunately, also caught and broadcast on live network TV.




Related Pictures

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Mike Conway and Graham Rahal crash at the start of the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. August 2011. [Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Dario Franchitti and Oriol Servia lead through turn 1 of the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. August 2011. [Photo Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media]
Helio Castroneves spins out at the first restart during the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. August 2011. [Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
The closely packed midfield runners during the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. August 2011. [Photo Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media]
The Sam Schmidt Motorsport pit crew tend to a fire on board Alex Tagliani`s #77 car during the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. August 2011. [Photo Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media]
Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates after winning the MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. August 2011. [Photo Credit: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media]
Will Power celebrates with his team after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his team owner Roger Penske after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his wife Liz after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Team Chevy sweeps the podium as Tony Kanaan (center), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Saturday, August 30, 2014, during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes second, and Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes third. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg EllmanLAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, makes a quick pit stop while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Brian Cleary/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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