Race Weekend Central

Five Hundred Miles For All The Marbles

For the seventh year in a row, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship will come down to the final race of the season. For the third year in a row, Will Power will be trying to win his first series championship. Power, driving for Team Penske, leads Ryan Hunter-Reay, driving for Andretti Autosport, by 17 points.

“I definitely like the position we’re in, chasing. We’ve been doing that for most of the year. I think we’ve been getting better at it,” said Hunter Reay this week. “We need to go out and focus on winning. That’s really what it’s going to be about.”

But there is a new wrinkle in the story this year, other than Hunter-Reay, who is making his first run at the series championship. It’s a wrinkle that may make focusing on the win even harder than usual.

IndyCar Roundtable: Season Grades, Schedule Tweaks, And Possible Title Upsets

*This Week’s Participants*:
Toni Montgomery (Frontstretch IndyCar Editor / Michael Annett Driver Diary)
Danny Peters (The Yellow Stripe / IndyCar Writer)
Matt Stallknecht (Frontstretch IndyCar Writer)

*We’re actually a little past halfway into the season so let’s share some thoughts on how things have gone so far.*

Matt: Well I think the oval races have been outstanding. Last week’s race in Iowa in particular was one of the best motorsport races of the year in my opinion. The road and street races have been lacking in excitement, but I’ve been very pleased with what I’ve seen so far on the oval side of things.

IndyCar Race Recap: Hunter-Reay Makes It A Repeat Performance

*In A Nutshell:* Ryan Hunter-Reay makes it two in a row with a convincing win at Iowa Speedway. Hunter-Reay started seventh and had a fast car all night, as did all the Andretti Autosport drivers. He was strong all night and simply motored to the front in the end and stayed there. Teammate Marco Andretti finished second, followed by Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Simon Pagenaud rounding out the top five. The victory also bring Hunter-Reay within three points of series points leader Will Power.

*Key Moment:* Scott Dixon’s car wasn’t quite what he wanted it to be all weekend so he used pit strategy to get to the lead in hopes that he could hold off all challenges by being in front. Hunter-Reay’s faster car was just too strong and on lap 238, he motored right on by Dixon to take the lead for the final time.

IndyCar Race Recap: Milwaukee IndyFest Presented by XYQ

*In A Nutshell:* Ryan Hunter-Reay gave team owner Michael Andretti a win in his own race in Milwaukee. Andretti’s company Andretti Sports Marketing was the promoter of the race. Hunter-Reay was strong from the beginning, starting the race in second and staying in the top five pretty much all day before taking the lead for the first time on lap 142. He never gave up the top spot after that. Tony Kanaan came home second followed by James Hinchcliffe, Oriol Servia and EJ Viso.

*Key Moment:* Helio Castroneves went with an alternate strategy and stayed on track to gain the lead when pretty much everyone else pitted under caution on lap 97. Hunter-Reay patiently ran him down and passed him when Castroneves’ older tires started to wear out. Once in the lead, Hunter-Reay flexed his muscle and held off all challengers for the final 84 laps.

IndyCar Race Recap: Fast and Furious Firestone 550K

*In A Nutshell:* The pack racing that characterized races at tracks like Texas was the result of cars with so much downforce that all drivers had to do was mat it and drive. It was eliminated this time around by giving the new car set up options that required drivers to manage tires and adjustments throughout the stint and made the car very difficult to handle at times. It put the race back into the hands of the drivers who had to use all their skills to keep control. Cars came on strong and cars faded meaning a lot of juggling of position through the field, and overall, it ended up being an anything can happen kind of night.

A Last-Lap Thriller For The Ages: Indy 500 Race Recap

*In A Nutshell:* With new cars, new engines and no clear favorite emerging, the hype going in promised an up-for-grabs, wide open contest where anything might happen. So often, things don’t live up to the hype, but not this time. The 2012 Indy 500 featured a record 35 lead changes among ten drivers, sixteen cars finished on the lead lap, and the event was unpredictable right up until the final moments. Defending IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti hadn’t run particularly well in the first four races of the season, qualified way back in 16th, and was barely mentioned before the race, but at the end of the day he was drinking the milk in Victory Lane for the third time despite a pit road incident that nearly destroyed his day.

Mission accomplished, IndyCar.

IndyCar Race Recap: “Power”ing Through The Honda Grand Prix Of Alabama

*In A Nutshell:* A red flag during Saturday’s qualifying session negated Will Power’s fast lap and left him ninth on the starting grid. He wasn’t happy with that result, thinking he couldn’t win the race from that far back. Good pit strategy, good tire strategy and patience put Power in front by the end of the day where he drove away for his second consecutive victory at Barber Motorsports Park. Scott Dixon finished second followed by Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal, and rookie Simon Pagenaud who improved on his series best finish from last week by one position.

IndyCar Race Recap: Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

*In a Nutshell:* Helio Castroneves in a Chevrolet beat Honda driver Scott Dixon to the line by 5.5292 seconds to win the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Castroneves and Dixon both employed a two stop strategy, the right call for the mainly green flag race. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport teammate James Hinchcliffe finished third and fourth. Penske Racing’s Ryan Briscoe rounded out the top five.

*Key Moment:* Scott Dixon pitted for the final time with 31 laps to go and Castroneves made his stop one lap later. Dixon cycled out ahead of Castroneves but Castroneves made a bold pass to the outside of Dixon in turn one with 28 laps remaining and then passed leader J.R. Hildebrand, showed some patented Penske power, and drove away to the win.

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