2012 IndyCar season finale: Auto Club Speedway, Fontana

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    Keith Collantine

    The 2012 IndyCar season concludes on Saturday night (very early on Sunday morning for those of us in the UK) with a 500-mile race at Auto Club Speedway, better known as Fontana.

    It’ll be the deciding contest in the championship battle between Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

    There will be a couple of changes in the driver line-up for this weekend. Mike Conway has announced he no longer wishes to race on ovals:

    I’m truly sorry for putting the team and our sponsors in a difficult position, but this is the hardest decision I have ever made in my racing career. I’ve come to realize I’m not comfortable on the ovals and no longer wish to compete on them. I want to stress that I am not finished racing and to this end, I would love to continue with A.J. Foyt Racing, but that’s something we need to discuss in the future.

    Conway of course was badly injured in a violent crash in the 2010 Indianapolis 500. He was also on the grid in last year’s season finale during which a crash claimed the life of Dan Wheldon.

    Conway’s place at AJ Foyt has been taken by Wade Cunningham, who hasn’t started an IndyCar race since that dreadful day last October. Sebastian Saavedra will return to the grid for this race as well.

    As usual we’ll be following the race on F1 Fanatic Live and there’ll be an article on the site previewing the finale on Saturday as well.


    Good on him for being totally honest about his feelings. He’s acted very professionally and I think he deserves respect for not making up some excuse like he so easily could have done.



    Not forgetting his accident at Indy this year. That was too close to Conway going up into the fence again, with all the echoes of Dan Wheldon’s crash that now brings.

    I think it’s a brave move by Mike – a bit like Lauda or Prost refusing to race in torrential rain, I guess. I hope it doesn’t harm his career too much, although maybe it’ll steer him towards sportscars.


    James Hosford

    Yeah good on Mike, I too hope it doesn’t harm his career too much, but I sense it will.


    Keith Collantine

    Marco Andretti starts on pole positions but both the championship contenders will be back in the pack after qualifying penalties.

    Power qualified third and Hunter-Reay 17th, but both will take ten-place grid penalties due to engine changes.



    So pumped for the race. My roommate’s 21st is that night so I’m going to have to go into media lock down until I can catch the race.


    Keith Collantine

    Ryan Hunter-Reay beat Will Power to the 2012 IndyCar championship after a nail-biting final race at the Auto Club Speedway.

    The pair started well back in the pack but the race was shaped when an early pass by Power went wrong. The Penske driver had nosed ahead of Hunter-Reay when his car snapped out of control and into the barrier – narrowly missing Hunter-Reay on its way.

    Now Hunter-Reay was on a mission to finish high enough to beat Power in the championship – no easy task in a car which did not appear to be handling well. Matters were made more difficult for him when Penske completed a hasty repair job on Power’s car and sent him out so he could limp around 11 laps to move up to 24th pace – worth an extra two places.

    That meant Hunter-Reay’s target for the title was fifth place. This he achieved when Tagliani – the very driver who had compromised his championship effort at Sonoma – hit the wall. But more drama followed after the next restart: Tony Kanaan crashed and with less than ten laps to go the red flag was thrown to ensure there would be time for more green-flag running at the finish.

    Hunter-Reay held third as the final laps began. But he was passed by Dixon and with Sato threatening and Power’s team mate Castroneves ripping through the field after a late tyre-change he looked in danger of slipping to sixth. That would have cost him the title by a point.

    As the final lap began Sato launched an attack on Hunter-Reay but – in a repeat of the conclusion of the Indianapolis 500 – spun off into the barriers. Like Power, he came perilously close to taking Hunter-Reay with him. But with that the field was neutralised and Hunter-Reay could finally relax in the knowledge he had done enough to secure the title.

    The absorbing championship contest took some of the attention away from a sterling drive by Ed Carpenter, who claimed his second career victory ahead of outgoing champion Dario Franchitti.

    But it was a desperate outcome for Power, who for the third year running finished second in the points having gone into the final round in the hunt for the title.

    After the terrible end to last year’s championship this was a fitting end to an often excellent season of racing. It’s a pity it has to come to an end so soon, particularly as Dixon and Castroneves closed back within range of the championship leaders at the finale.

    Next year’s IndyCar calendar will be announced soon and is expected to be expanded over this year’s truncated 15-race schedule. After the action-packed season we’ve had – especially on the ovals – I’ve certainly got an appetite for more.

    Final points:

    1. Ryan Hunter-Reay – 468
    2. Will Power – 465
    3. Scott Dixon – 435
    4. Helio Castroneves – 431
    5. Simon Pagenaud – 387
    6. Ryan Briscoe – 370


    Keith Collantine

    Hunter-Reay is very happy:

    And Briscoe had damage:



    I watched the highlights on Sky Sports last night and I must say, it was one heck of a race. I managed to avoid the result and I’m glad I did as I did find it pretty tense throughout, what with Power going out so early on. It by no means made things easier for Hunter-Reay and he still had to work damn hard to win the championship. I was quite nervous when Sato was hanging around him but he seemd to keep a cool head and not over-react to being hounded.

    Disappointing for Power but a great effort from his team to get him back in the race.

    Thanks for your coverage this year @keithcollantine This is the first year I’ve watched IndyCar properly and I’ve really enjoyed it, especially the ovals. Looking forward to 2013!


    Keith Collantine


    Those are amazing. There’s really some gems in there; I’m considering changing my desktop from F1 to IndyCar for the first time ever, haha.


    Keith Collantine

    Highlights from the race:


    Adam Tate

    Such an incredible race, I got busy with work so I had the race just sitting on my DVR for days! Finally watched it and all I can say is wow. I’m thrilled for Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport, but I am simultaneously gutted for Will Power. I hope he gets a break soon, he has more than earned it.

    If Rubens coming across the pond brought over new Indycar fans from F1, great races like this should only add more!

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