*In A Nutshell:* Now that’s how you end a racing season! The race featured 12 different leaders with cars coming and going all night and a number of different faces running near the front. In the end, Ed Carpenter had just gotten by Dario Franchitti when a caution froze the field on the last lap and he took the win. Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves completed the top 5. As far as the championship, points leader Will Power crashed on lap 55 and had to watch as Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had to finish fifth to beat him, pushed all night and in the closing laps finally got there to take the big prize by three points.
*Key Moment:* For race winner Ed Carpenter, the key moment was a lap 184 pit stop. He’d flexed muscle early and dominated the middle portion of the race, but Carpenter and company over adjusted on the car and dialed him out of the running. They fixed it on the lap 184 stop and it put Carpenter back in contention for the win.
For Ryan Hunter-Reay, clearly it was Will Power’s crash on lap 55 that was the key moment as it put the championship firmly within his reach.
-Will Power thought the race was over when he crashed on lap 55 but his team had other ideas. They’d stripped every single spare part off his backup car prior to the race so that they would all be readily available if needed and that foresight paid off. They used those part to reassemble the badly damaged No. 12 entry so that Power could return to the track and log 12 more laps, enough to gain one more spot in the finishing order and two more points so that Hunter-Reay needed to finish fifth instead of sixth to claim the championship. To rebuild a car that damaged and get it back on the track that quickly is nothing short of incredible.
-In spite of the valiant effort of Team Penske, when it’s meant to be, there’s just no stopping it. That seemed to be the case for Hunter-Reay. He’d just been passed by Power when Power spun and missed him by just a couple of feet. On the final lap, he’d just been passed by Takuma Sato when Sato also spun and just missed making contact with him. It was not just those lucky breaks but also hard work by Hunter-Reay and team, who struggled all week with the car. He spent much of the race running a couple of spots behind where he needed to be before a final surge in the closing laps put him ahead.
-Robin Miller is a freakin’ genius. Miller called Ed Carpenter as his prerace pick to win. I have to admit I thought he was crazy. Shows you what I know.
-This was the last race for Bob Jenkins in the broadcast booth before he heads into retirement from broadcasting. He will be missed. The night before, Ed Carpenter told Jenkins he’d love his last race call from the booth to be “Ed Carpenter wins the race.” Amazingly, it was.
-Dario Franchitti’s crew pulled off a picture perfect stop on lap 184. It could have been a how to video on pit stops, and it picked him up from fifth to second.
-When Tony Kanaan crashed on lap 241, the race was red flagged for clean up so they wouldn’t run out of laps running under caution and could try to get a green flag finish. There had been discussion of doing this sort of thing as a rule, although the league isn’t really keen on doing the green/white/checkered finish used by NASCAR.
-Here’s a lesson in being a good teammate. In the late running, Helio Castroneves asked his team for tires and adjustments to make him faster so he could try to move up in an effort to get past Ryan Hunter-Reay and therefore help teammate Will Power try to win the championship. Castroneves did everything possible and was absolutely flying in the closing laps to try to catch Hunter-Reay in an effort to keep him from finishing fifth or better.
*Notable Driver: Ed Carpenter.* I know he won the race and this spot is usually given to someone else who didn’t win but had a noteworthy performance, however I give it to Carpenter for two reasons. First, he won the championship deciding race, which means that new champion Ryan Hunter-Reay takes the lions share of the attention. That’s not undeserved on the part of Hunter-Reay and it’s nothing new but Carpenter’s accomplishment still deserves to get the attention it would have in any other week. Which brings me to reason two: Ed Carpenter Racing came together just before the start of the season and does not have nearly the resources of a Penske or Ganassi or Andretti and yet, David slew Goliath at Fontana.
*How Did Our Picks Fare?*
Matt Stallknecht picked Ryan Hunter-Reay to win both the race and the championship. He got half of it right. Toni Montgomery picked Scott Dixon to win the race and Will Power for the championship. Close on Dixon and so close but no cigar once again on Power. Huston Ladner picked Dario Franchitti as the race winner and Will Power as the champion. If the caution had flown just one corner sooner, Huston would have gotten the race winner right. But then, who other than Robin Miller saw Ed Carpenter coming?
*Quotes and Tweets:*
“We may not win the championship but you can’t say we didn’t try.” Dave Faustino, Race Engineer for Will Power.
Nascarcasm (at)nascarcasm: That’s the sort of #IndyCar race that’ll have you going to several more #IndyCar races the following year.
Denny Hamlin (at)dennyhamlin: Does anyone else find it weird how these indy car spotters tell these guys how they should drive every lap? id be like stfu and spot
Nate Ryan (at)nateryan: Pre-2004, #nascar announced in drivers meetings if yellow occurred before a specified lap, race would be red-flagged to clean track#indycar
Jenna Fryer (at)JennaFryer: AJ Allmendinger will be at #IndyCar season finale at Fontana today and tomorrow as a guest of Roger Penske. #NASCAR.
Jenna Fryer (at)JennaFryer: AJ Foyt racing says Conway asked to step out of the ride. #IndyCar
“I have no idea (how I won this championship). It was team effort right there. We were struggling all weekend. I didn’t want to let anyone really know about it. We were really in the woods. This hasn’t sunk in yet. I just drove 500 miles for my life. I can’t believe we’re INDYCAR champions. _Ryan Hunter-Reay_
“This feels great for a brand new team that just started in November.” _Ed Carpenter_
“There were definitely times there where it was looking hopeful. All credit to my guys, getting the car out and doing those 12 laps to get a couple of points. At the end of the day, Hunter-Reay is definitely a deserving champion. A real fighter. Probably as far as all around drivers go, he’s probably the best in the series because he wins in each discipline. If I look back on the season, once again the ovals – three crashes on three of the ovals this year, that’s a massive hit in the points. Three years winning the road course championship, quite convincingly, so it’s very obvious where I lack.” _Will Power_
*What’s Next:* The off-season. That’s it for the 2012 edition of the IZOD IndyCar Series. The schedule for 2013 hasn’t been released yet but the teams should be returning to do it all over again after a long winter’s nap somewhere around March. In the meantime, we’ll continue to bring you Open Wheel Wednesday with some reviews, previews, and of course our opinions on all things INDYCAR.