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.

Will Power's best lap hit 215.761mph, followed by Ryan Briscoe (215.133mph) and Josef Newgarden (214.948mph). In total, 22 cars took part and notched up 2594 laps between them during the day. Air temperatures reached a high of 31.7C (89F) during the afternoon, and dropped to 25.6C (78F) under the floodlights after dusk by the time the session ended, which is when the race will finish on Saturday.

"It's a good start to the weekend," said Power. "The car was good and we just kept getting better and better as the day went on. I think we're in pretty good shape for qualifying. We're ready. Now we just need to go out and get it done."

EJ Viso ran just 40 laps during the day before making contact with the wall. Ryan Briscoe's day also ended in contact, but in his case it was right as the session came to an end in any case.

"I just got on the high line and hit a bump at the entry of turn 3 and it just spun around," explained Briscoe. "Aside from the impact at the end, it was a really good test day overall."

The series hasn't raced at Fontana since 2005 and the one-day test is to allow drivers to get some extra familiarisation time on the circuit before the start of formal practice, which begins with a 90 minute first session on Friday morning.

The qualifying session follows in the afternoon, with a further 45 minute practice session then scheduled for early evening to match the 5.45pm PST (1.45am BST) start time for the MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship race itself on Saturday evening, which is expected to last up to three hours before the chequered flag is due to drop shortly before 9pm (5am BST).