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Carpenter wins race, Hunter-Reay takes IndyCar title

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Carpenter wins race, Hunter-Reay takes IndyCar title

Ryan Hunter-Reay en route to the IndyCar title on Sunday , the first for an American since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.

DALE BOSOWSKI/Special to the Bulletin

POSTED September 17, 2012 12:36 a.m.

FOTANA - Ed Carpenter won the battle while Andretti Motorsports driver Ryan Hunter-Reay won the war and both were all smiles following Saturday’s MAVTV 500 IZOD IndyCar finale on the Auto Club Speedway 2-mile oval in Fontana.

Team Penske’s Will Power took the green flag to start the 250-lap race with a 17-point advantage over Hunter-Reay for the season championship, but lost control of his car on lap 55 as he was going under Hunter-Reay and spun hard into the turn 2 barrier, nearly collecting Hunter-Reay in the process on Sunday.

“The car was pushing and I caught a seam in the track and it really caught me by surprise,” said a dejected Power after leaving the care center. “It is so depressing to have this happen.”

The incident seemed to end the Australian’s bid for the title, but this race would have more suspense and plot twists than a novel by Agatha Christie. Despite Power’s departure in the 25th position Hunter-Reay would still have to finish in sixth or better to overtake Power in the standings.

As Hunter-Reay continued around the track near the back of the top ten, Power’s team joined by members of the crews from his Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, worked in the garage to repair Power’s badly damaged car.

Power emerged from the garage and returned to the track to the roar of the crowd at midrace and he was able to limp around for 12 laps before retiring for good. That effort pushed him up one position in the race standings to 24th and earned him two additional points which meant Hunter-Reay would now have to finish in fifth place or higher to take the championship.

“We knew what they (Team Penske) were up to and then when I saw the car come out again I thought, geez, if this isn’t bad enough now they are making it even harder,” said team owner Michael Andretti.

There was just as much drama at the front of the field where 12 different drivers held the race lead.

 With just 20 laps remaining Alex Tagliani held the top spot when his engine suddenly let go and put him out of the race. Carpenter, who led the most laps on the race with 62, inherited the lead and Hunter–Reay moved from sixth to sixth.

When the race resumed on lap 237 Dario Franchitti promptly swooped by Carpenter to take over the lead as the rest of the bunched up field battled for position.

On lap 241 Tony Kanaan lost control of his car and spiraled into the wall bringing the race to a halt as the red flag was displayed. With just 8 eight laps to go the cars sat motionless on pit row waiting for the race to resume with Franchitti, Carpenter, Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato holding down the top five spots.

The race resumed five agonizing minutes later. As the drivers took the white flag Carpenter edged past Franchitti for the 29th lead change of the race at the same instant Sato was trying to get under Hunter-Reay for fourth place behind Dixon. Unfortunately, Sato lost control and spun into the wall, just missing Hunter-Reay as Power had done almost 200 laps earlier, bringing out the yellow caution to give Carpenter his second career win and the championship to Hunter-Reay by just 3 points over Power

‘’He was protecting the bottom. I got a good run on him in the front stretch and got on top to pass him in turn two. Then the yellow came out and I knew I had won,” explained an elated Carpenter. “This feels great for a team that just started in November. Good way to end the year.”

Hunter-Reay was as equally excited to become the first American IndyCar champion since Sam Hornish in 2006.

“This was such a team effort. We were struggling all weekend and I didn’t want anyone to know about it,” said Hunter-Reay age 31. “I just drove 500 miles for my life. This hasn’t sunk in yet.”

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