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Hunter-Reay survives thriller to win title

So Hunter-Reay was forced into a highly risky battle with Sato, perhaps not a driver known as one of the most level-headed and calm of competitors. He finally managed to pull clear of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan car - and then Sato spun, took up off the track and hit the wall with a big impact at the start of the final lap.

"The end of the race was a real shame," said Sato of his accident, perhaps thinking back to his similar last lap exit from the Indy 500 just a few months ago. "I was side-by-side with Ryan through Turns 1 and 2 and I suddenly lost the back end on the final lap. I feel sorry for the guys who have done a great job over the course of the weekend and also the whole year really. It was a fantastic season so it is a real shame to finish this way. It was an exciting race."

Once again, Hunter-Reay had escaped disaster by mere inches: he was still running and unscathed. The yellows were out, and he was - where? What position? Was it still good enough for the title or had too many cars come flying past him in the maelstrom?

Somewhere up ahead, Ed Carpenter was claiming the chequered flag, finishing the 2012 season as he had the previous one - with a brilliant oval win. For now, unfairly after such a brilliant drive, hardly anyone noticed.

Also up ahead, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon claiming second and third, the best Ganassi result since May's Indianapolis 500. Again, this wasn't what gripped people's attention right now.

Also up ahead ... Wait. No one. That was it. Hunter-Reay was fourth, and wasn't fourth place good enough to clinch the title? Surely it was? That's what everyone was looking at.

It took a few minutes to be sure, for it to really sink in, and even as the celebrations started and the presentation ceremony got underway, there was a look in the eyes of Ryan Hunter-Reay and Michael Andretti that asked: are we sure? Really? Is this actually happening?

Sadly, one look into the face of Will Power was enough to confirm the reality of defeat as seen from the Penske corner. They'd been cruelly deprived of the title once again, even failed to finish the last race of the season yet again. It was almost too much to bear, although Power did it with class and dignity that belied how much it was surely hurting inside.

"At the end of the day, Hunter-Reay is definitely a deserving champion. A real fighter. Probably as far as all around drivers go, he's probably the best in the series because he wins in each discipline," said Power of the new champion.

As for himself: "Three years winning the road course championship quite convincingly, so it's very obvious where I lack," he admitted. "Once again the ovals, three crashes on three of the ovals this year, that's a massive hit in the points."




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)
Will Power and Carlos Munoz flank winner Mike Conway during their victory lap (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon rolls out of pitlane during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Munoz, Mike Conway and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Carlos Munoz, Mike Conway and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway and team boss Ed Carpenter pose for pictures after victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway poses for pictures with the team from Ed Carpenter Racing after victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay celebrates pole position in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay leads Sebastien Bourdais during the early stages of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay leads James Hinchcliffe during the early stages of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway (centre), driver of the #20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory with champagne Sunday, April 13, 2014 after winning the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. Will Power (right), driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, finished second. (Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, April 13, 2014 during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. With the victory, Conway moves into second place in the driver point standings. (Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, April 13, 2014 during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. With the victory, Conway moves into second place in the driver point standings. (Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, driver of the #20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, raises his arm as he crosses the finish line Sunday, April 13, 2014 to win the IndyCar Grand Prix of Long Beach in Long Beach, California. With the victory, Conway moves into second place in the driver point standings. (Photo Credit: Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power on track (Photo by: John Cote 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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