Will Power, Penske, Sonoma, 2012

IndyCar set for dramatic yet poignant finale

IndyCarPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Will Power, Penske, Sonoma, 2012The 2012 IndyCar championship will be decided in a final-race showdown at the Auto Club Speedway on Saturday night.

Heading into the penultimate race Will Power’s position at the head of the points table looked comfortable.

But victory for Ryan Hunter-Reay in a tense, rain-hit race on the streets of Baltimore has set up a fascinating season finale.

This year’s champion will be crowned after a 500-mile race at the two-mile superspeedway in Fontana, California.

Hunter-Reay puts Power under pressure

Hunter-Reay’s fourth win of the year trimmed Power’s points lead to 17. This is the third year in a row he has come to the final race in contention for the championship, but he was beaten by Dario Franchitti on the last two occasions.

Power’s vulnerability heading into the final race is clear to see: of his 15 IndyCar victories, just one of them have come on an oval, and that was in a half-distance race at which several of his closest rivals had compromised starting positions.

So far this year Hunter-Reay has four wins to Power’s three, and two of those have come on ovals. Power is yet to finish higher than eighth on an oval in 2012.

There is the possibility of team mates coming into play in the title decider as well. Hunter-Reay has James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti alongside him, but neither of them have won races this year, unlike Power’s Penske team mates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe.

It promises to be a spectacular end to the season. It will be a long, race hard race over 250 laps which will put an especially high strain on the engines – 14 drivers have taken engine change penalties to start with fresh units.

A poignant finale

The dreadful circumstance of last year’s IndyCar’s season finale cannot be overlooked. Dan Wheldon lost his life following an appalling crash during the race at Las Vegas. Power was one of several other drivers involved and injured in the crash.

Since then IndyCar has introduced a new chassis which Wheldon played a role in developing. It has helped reduce the ‘pack racing’ which had become dangerously prevalent in IndyCar, which created the circumstances for Wheldon’s crash.

But the memory of the crash, which happened almost 11 months ago, will inevitably hang heavily over the race weekend.

Before the weekend began Mike Conway announced he no longer wished to participate in oval racing, saying he was “not comfortable” driving on them. Wade Cunningham has taken his place.

Championship standings

Here’s how the top ten drivers are placed in the championship heading into the final race:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012indycardrivercolours.csv

St. Petersburg Barber Long Beach Sao Paulo Indianapolis Detroit Texas Milwaukee Iowa Toronto Edmonton Mid-Ohio Sonoma Baltimore
Will Power 0 27 77 127 180 200 232 256 274 286 301 336 379 422 453
Ryan Hunter-Reay 0 35 53 81 121 143 169 181 233 283 335 362 374 386 436
Helio Castroneves 0 50 86 103 135 164 177 203 231 261 289 339 353 381 401
Scott Dixon 0 42 84 96 109 153 206 220 239 271 281 301 351 368 400
Simon Pagenaud 0 28 58 100 118 136 171 199 216 246 264 276 311 337 372
Ryan Briscoe 0 30 46 73 83 128 142 177 193 205 217 241 267 317 357
James Hinchcliffe 0 32 60 95 123 164 176 208 243 256 268 286 316 326 341
Tony Kanaan 0 10 22 54 71 113 141 160 200 235 267 279 307 327 339
Dario Franchitti 0 17 37 52 82 136 176 192 205 216 230 258 271 306 323
Graham Rahal 0 18 50 62 76 97 109 149 171 193 205 237 256 286 305

Here’s how points are awarded in IndyCar:

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18-24 25-33 Pole Most laps led
Points 50 40 35 32 30 28 26 24 22 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 10 1 2

Starting grid

Marco Andretti starts from pole position for only the second time in his career, averaging 347.7kph (216mph).

Ryan Briscoe joins him on the front row. Rubens Barrichello starts sixth, his second-best qualifying performance of his first IndyCar season.

But the championship contenders are well back in the field following engine change penalties: Will Power 13th and Ryan Hunter-Reay well back in 22nd.

Row 1 1. Marco Andretti
Dallara/Chevrolet
2. Ryan Briscoe
Dallara/Chevrolet
Row 2 3. Tony Kanaan
Dallara/Chevrolet
4. JR Hildebrand
Dallara/Chevrolet
Row 3 5. Ed Carpenter
Dallara/Chevrolet
6. Rubens Barrichello
Dallara/Chevrolet
Row 4 7. Katherine Legge
Dallara/Chevrolet
8. Oriol Servia
Dallara/Chevrolet
Row 5 9. Dario Franchitti
Dallara/Honda
10. Sebastian Saavedra
Dallara/Honda
Row 6 11. EJ Viso
Dallara/Chevrolet
12. James Jakes
Dallara/Honda
Row 7 13. Will Power
Dallara/Chevrolet
14. Josef Newgarden
Dallara/Honda
Row 8 15. Scott Dixon
Dallara/Honda
16. Alex Tagliani
Dallara/Honda
Row 9 17. Helio Castroneves
Dallara/Chevrolet
18. Graham Rahal
Dallara/Honda
Row 10 19. James Hinchcliffe
Dallara/Chevrolet
20. Simon Pagenaud
Dallara/Honda
Row 11 21. Takuma Sato
Dallara/Honda
22. Ryan Hunter-Reay
Dallara/Chevrolet
Row 12 23. Charlie Kimball
Dallara/Honda
24. Wade Cunningham
Dallara/Honda
Row 13 25. Justin Wilson
Dallara/Honda
26. Simona de Silvestro
Dallara/Lotus

Baltimore race highlights

Watch how Ryan Hunter-Reay put himself back in the championship reckoning after an opportunistic win in the previous race at Baltimore:

F1 Fanatic Live: 2012 IndyCar World Championships at Auto Club Speedway

Join F1 Fanatic live as we follow the final round of the 2012 IndyCar season.

The race starts at 1am UK time on Sunday 16th September with live coverage on Sky Sports 1.

Over to you

Who’s your tip to clinch the IndyCar championship? Have your say in the comments.

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