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Hunter-Reay survives thriller to win title

The car was wrecked; the driver, fortunately, completely unharmed. But now Will Power's championship hopes were completely out of his own hands - although by no means gone. Thanks to his 17pt lead in the championship standings he'd held coming into the event, Power still had the lead in the championship despite being out of the race. Hunter-Reay had to finish, and moreover finish in sixth place or better to claim enough the points to overhaul Power and clinch the title. Anything could happen yet: Hunter-Reay had already come within inches of being wiped out by the wrecking Penske car right then and there on lap 56.

"I don't know how close it was," said Hunter-Reay after the race finished. "He was right next to me and I saw him lose it, so I bet it was pretty close. He was joking around that he would take me out if I was next to him - and he almost did!"

The shadows were beginning to stretch over the circuit with the sun dipping further and further below the level of the grandstands, as the green flag came out again on lap 66 for a single file restart that soon scattered multi-wide across the circuit. Carpenter had the jump on Hildebrand, while Rubens Barrichello was up to third place alongside fellow F1 refugee Takuma Sato. Tony Kanaan and Scott Dixon rounded out the top six, while Hunter-Reay was struggling to cling on to a top ten spot.

Hildebrand's excellent run at the front came to an end minutes later on lap 74 when the #4 car abruptly slowed on the backstretch with suspension damage, having pushed the high-line just that little bit too far in his battle for the lead with Carpenter.

"I was running high and had to pedal it while Ed stayed flat and drove straight through," said Hildebrand later. "I felt like I had the pace to get back by him, but just by the nature of the two lines we were running I was getting a lot of dirty air on the exit of the corners ... I could see that he was struggling a little bit, but I was the one that ended up getting caught out. Massively frustrating deal: I felt we had a car that was going to finish in the top five and I felt like we had a shot at winning this deal."

The Panther crew managed to effect repairs under the ensuing caution, which was lengthened when Katherine Legge inadvertently rear-ended Justin Wilson's car and caused the Dale Coyne Racing machine to expire on the spot.

"It's so frustrating to be taken out of the race like that," rued Wilson. "There was a big stack-up in front of me and I just got rammed from behind. Unfortunately that damaged the gearbox so that we couldn't get a gear and the clutch wouldn't work either, so that was the end of our race."

Carpenter resumed the lead at the restart ahead of Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti, but significantly Ryan Hunter-Reay was now up in fourth place - just what he needed to clinch the title from Power. The Penske squad recognised the danger and leapt into action, with Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves sent flying in to pass both of the Andretti Autosport cars and force Hunter-Reay back down to sixth place. But the Penske team needed more.

Back in the Penske garage, it was all hands on deck as the pit crew worked feverishly to bolt an entire new back end onto the crumpled #12 car and get Power back out again, in the hope of making up a couple of spots in the final results that could yet prove crucial in the title battle. A bemused Power reappeared in his street clothes and was hustled away to get back into his fire suit: this was by no means over yet.

In the meantime, there was another caution came out on lap 108 for Rubens Barrichello's engine blowing up putting an end to a fine run that he's clearly been enjoying: "I had a good car at the beginning and it was all going really well, but unfortunately it ended literally in fumes," Barrichello said. "I enjoyed being back on ovals and at Fontana. I need to thank my crew for their hard work this year and look forward to next year."




Related Pictures

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Ed Carpenter celebrates winning the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (c) 2012, Perry Nelson (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Ed Carpenter #20 celebrates with Scott Dixon #9 and Dario Franchitti #10 after winning the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (c) 2012 Jamey Price (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates after the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (c) 2012, Michael L. Levitt (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay is congratulated by runner-up Will Power after the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. (c) 2012, Michael L. Levitt (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa.  (Photo by Brett Moist/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Briscoe (left), driver of the #8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, talks with teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, during qualifying Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Briscoe qualified fourth, Kanaan second and teammate Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 won the pole. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 celebrates winning the pole Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Dixon will start in the front row with teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, who qualified second. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6 wins the pole Friday, July 11, 2014 for Saturday`s race at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Dixon will start in the front row with teammate Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, who qualified second. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
The eyes of Scott Dixon look down track prior to practice for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon on course during practice for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon celebrates taking pole position for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 presented by DEKALB at Iowa Speedway on Friday July 12 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay sits in his car during a rain delay at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
The Team Penske crew of Juan Pablo Montoya simulate a pit stop during practice for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 at Iowa Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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cruachan - Unregistered

September 16, 2012 1:25 PM

Congrats to RHR and Andretti Autosport, they've done a great job after several years in the wilderness (relatively) and Ryan has shown great consistency this year. Credit to Will Power too. I've never been a fan of him due to some of his off track antics but he showed a lot of dignity and class to be one of the first to congratulate Ryan. He's in danger of becoming IndyCar's Nori Haga though, three years in a row he's lost it at the finale.

Firefly - Unregistered

September 16, 2012 2:19 PM

Great article. And what a race, it was really worth staying up for. Those last 10 laps were the most nervewracking oval laps I've ever seen. Congratulations to anyone in IndyCar for a great season, let's hope 2013 is even better.



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