Last year’s IZOD IndyCar Series finale ended in tragedy with the death of Dan Wheldon. This year’s finish was triumphant, with a dramatic, down-to-the-wire, championship won by Ryan Hunter-Reay and an exciting, final laps pass for the victory by Ed Carpenter.
For the third year in a row, Penske Racing driver Will Power was poised to capture the title but yet again it was not to be. Going into the MAVTV 500 at California Speedway, all the Australian had to do was keep it between the walls. Once again, his inability to race on ovals did him in when he lost control and crashed on Lap 55 of the scheduled 250.
Although crew members from all three Penske Racing entries – a total of 20 from Power’s team as well as helpers from Ryan Briscoe’s and Helio Castroneves’s – literally rebuilt the car in the garage and sent it back out for Power to finish 24th and score enough points to force Hunter-Reay to finish fifth or better, it was for naught as Hunter-Reay made it through to the end of the race uninterrupted, ending up fourth to win the championship by three points.
Ironically, Power nearly collected Hunter-Reay when he crashed, the eventual champion passing him on the high side as he spun out of control. As the new champ collected his thoughts afterward, he made mention of Power jokingly suggesting that he might crash his opponent in order to win.
Hunter-Reay’s first words upon exiting his car, however, had nothing to do with Power. "Oh, my God," he said as he stood up in the cockpit.
"We were struggling all week," he told a television reporter a short time later. "We were really in the woods. It hasn’t sunk in yet. I just drove 500 miles like it was for my life. I can’t believe we are IndyCar champions. My dream has come true."
To his credit, Power congratulated the new champion. "He’s a deserving champion," he said. "He’s a fighter."
And he owned up to his own shortcoming. "Obviously, it’s ovals where I lack."
Dario Franchitti, who was champion the last three years, finished second in the race behind Carpenter. He’d been leading but had to check up as they came upon a slower car and Carpenter went by him on the high side for the lead and the victory.
Scott Dixon finished third, Hunter-Reay (who signed to continue driving for Michael Andretti before the race) was fourth, Castroneves was fifth, Graham Rahal finished sixth, Takuma Sato (he crashed on the white-flag lap, just as he did at the Indianapolis 500 in May) still finished seventh, pole-sitter Marco Andretti was eighth, Katherine Legge was ninth and drove the best race of her IndyCar career in so doing, and Charlie Kimball was tenth.
Canadian Alex Tagliani of Montreal looked for awhile as if he might win the race but lost his engine in the late going. He eventually was classified 20th and finished the season 17th in points.
James Hinchcliffe of Oakville did not have a good race. He was assessed a drive-through penalty for jumping a restart and eventually finished three laps off the pace in 13th place. He finished the season in eighth position.
"Hinch" will soon be off to Australia – his girlfriend’s from there – to race in the Australian V8 Supercars Championship Gold Coast race next month. His sponsor, Go Daddy, is making a big push Down Under and Hinchcliffe will be racing and promoting his sponsor’s brand.
OTHER WEEKEND RACING
– D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas won his sixth race of the season at Riverside Speedway outside Antigonish, N.S., Saturday night but it still wasn’t enough to clinch his second NASCAR Canadian Tire Series national championship.
He’ll have to wait now till next Saturday at Kawartha Speedway near Peterborough, where it’s expected he’ll wrap things up.
J.R. Fitzpatrick of Cambridge was second in the Down East contest, with Mark Dilley of Barrie third, defending champion Scott Steckly of Milverton third and Ron Beauchamp Jr. of Windsor fifth.
– At Virginia International Raceway, Muscle Milk Team Picket’s Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf won the American Le Mans Series race in their Honda Performance Development P1 car.
Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner wrapped up the GT class championship for Corvette Racing and Cooper MacNeil (wiith Leh Keen for this race) won the GT Challenge championship.
The ALMS will end its season Oct. 20 at Road Atlanta when the Petit Le Mans will be run.
– Back at California Speedway, Carlos Muniz might have won the Indy Lights race but David Ostella of Maple finished second and that is the best finish for this young Canadian racer in that series and the first time in his Indy Lights career that he’s been on the podium. Congratulations, David!