Gripping Fontana Race
After an exciting and surprising 500 mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ryan Hunter-Reay is the 2012 IndyCar Champion, and Ed Carpenter won his second ever IndyCar race. Hunter-Reay entered the race 17 points adrift of leader Will Power. When Power spun and crashed at Turn 2 on lap 55, Hunter-Reay had his opening – he needed to finish sixth or better to overtake Power and become the first American IndyCar Champion in 6 years.
Power Somehow Rejoins Race
After a simply amazing effort by the Team Penske Crew, Will Power returned to the track on lap 123. The #12 Verizon car was severely damaged by the lap 55 crash, and the team had to replace the entire rear end plus many other parts to make the car track ready. Other crews were ‘high-fiving’ the Penske crew members in a mix of awe, amazement, and respect. I’ve never seen a car so badly damaged return to a race. Power was able to turn a dozen laps before retiring, and this was enough to move him ahead of E.J. Viso. Now Hunter-Reay needed to finish fifth or better to be the IndyCar Champion.
Battle for MAVTV 500 Win and IndyCar 2012 Championship
After Will Power retired, there were two races ongoing – one for the MAVTV 500 win and one to become IndyCar Champion. In the former, there were 24 lead changes after Power’s crash. JR Hildebrand ran really well on the high part of the track early in the race. Unfortunately he had a brush with the wall, which necessitated a repair that put him several laps down and out of contention. In the middle part of the race, the lead was exchanged multiple times between the likes of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Alex Tagliani, and Ed Carpenter. As the race wore on, it was apparent that nobody was clearly dominant, and that promised an interesting finish.
Carpenter Wins With Gutsy Drive
Ed Carpenter was competitive throughout, led the most laps overall, and drove a great race to win the MAVTV 500. The victory was the second of his IndyCar career. Tony Kanaan spun into the Turn 4 wall bringing out a red flag on lap 242 to preclude a parade finish under yellow. Dario Franchitti who had taken the lead from Carpenter on lap 237 would lead from the restart and take the white flag, but Carpenter had a strong run thru Turn 2 from high on the track and passed Franchitti down the backstretch just as Takuma Sato crashed out bringing out a yellow flag for the last half lap. What a finish!
Hunter-Reay A Worthy IndyCar Champion
Ryan Hunter-Reay is certainly a deserving IndyCar Champion, winning more races than anyone including three in a row during the summer stretch and a win in the penultimate race in Baltimore setting up the showdown in Fontana. In the run up to the finale, Hunter-Reay also turned down a deal to race with Team Penske and signed a new contract with Andretti Autosport. For Will Power, this makes the third year in a row that he finished second while going into the final race with a strong chance to win. It was also the third year in a row that a crash in that final race ruined his chances to win. Congratulations to Ryan Hunter-Reay, IndyCar Champion for 2012.