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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)
Pit lane (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Scott Dixon spins during practice (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin slides into his machine prior to the evening Open Test session at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
The pylon at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin sits in his machine prior to practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin on course during practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin crosses the start/finish line during practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin receives a handshake before his qualification attempt for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest.  (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates with his daughter Mikaella after winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest.  (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club 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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