IndyCar set for dramatic yet poignant finale


Posted on

| Written by

The 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:

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

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.


Browse all IndyCar articles

Image © Chevrolet

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

28 comments on “IndyCar set for dramatic yet poignant finale”

  1. I really dislike Will Power, he seem arrogant and is always blaming others for crashes. There is just something about him that makes him not very likeable so i was hoping Hunter-Ray might win it, but judging from the grid he hasn’t got much hope.

    1. Ovals are strange beasts where anything can happen and overtaking is relatively easy. If they have the pace in the race, both will reach the front.

      1. I actually like him. I really hope he wins the title this year, he’s been on form the last three years and really deserves the championship.

        He does have the odd rant but sometimes is funny about it. Last race he complained about RHR jumping the re-start but then said “I’d have done exactly the same thing, we’re going for the championship.” I like that he’s honest and says what he wants.

        1. davidnotcoulthard
          15th September 2012, 14:57

          What if Lewis says that-in Charlie’s house?

        2. +1. I agree with @maxthecat up to a point but totally with @tommyb89. My cheers go to Power and his parents, who named him with an amazing pun ;)

          1. It’s one of those great names for a racing driver, like Scott Speed!

    2. Just remember that Takuma Sato is in the race, and he is a one-man championship alterer (usually affecting the alteration with the use of his front wing). The race is not over till everyone has passed the chequered flag, as was evidenced in the 2008 F1 season finale.

    3. Michael Brown (@)
      15th September 2012, 22:02

      It’s about the best driver who wins the championship, not the nicest guy.

  2. Just noticed that all the Engines were Hondas; I assume this is a mistake?
    Given Powers experiences on Ovals; I gotta give the Title to RHR. But the A.J Foyt trophy has got to go to TK for me.

    1. @cstonehouse My mistake – fixed it.

  3. Since they’re all in Dallara/Hondas, why not list their team-names instead? Would be of a lot more use surely?

    1. That is not correct, as there are Chevys and one Lotus as well. The Chevys are in positions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 17, 19, and 22. As usual, the Lotus is qualified last.

  4. I’ve watched just two races this year, but I will be watching this one. It feels weird that the championship ends midway through September.

    I want Power to win the title as he’s deserve to win it for a few years now, I think this will be his year.

  5. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
    15th September 2012, 14:25

    What time does it start in the uk? As you might be able to tell i’m not a regular watcher but i hope rhr will win it.

    1. It says in the article.

  6. I dislike WP, and I want RHR to take title. He will be the first American to take the title since 2006 (Sam Hornish Jr.)

    1. Then came the scottish invasion. With the odd Aussie.

  7. Watching that Baltimore highlights video, it looks incredibly dangerous having the pit crew up against a concrete wall like that, if a driver came in a foot too far to the right they’d get squished :/

    1. if a driver came in a foot too far to the right they’d get squished

      That has happened before although fortunately very rarely & injuries are usually minor.

      Having the wall there is something that’s a part of every US racing series, Even proper road circuits like Road America, Mid-Ohio etc… have the wall that the mechanics have to go over.

      When Indycar raced at Montreal they always put a wall infront of the traditional F1 pit garages-

  8. @JimmyThe…etc : Green flag is scheduled for 5.45pm local time Saturday, so that’s 8.45pm on the US east coast and 1.45am Sunday in the UK. Looks like coverage starts on Sky Sports at 1.00am.

    I’ve also noticed a change in WP’s demeanour over the last half of the season. He’s always been incredibly quick and talented, but it’s never come together for him and his career was almost derailed during the death throes of the IRL/Champ Car fight. He was always softly spoken and laid back, but I think the strain of being the almost-man is beginning to weigh on him, especially now that another championship could potentially slip away when it looked like it was his for the taking. He’s had a hard look in his eyes for months, and unfortunately he’s sounding out his frustrations within range of a microphone a little too often.

    I like the guy though. An American champion would do wonders for the health of the series, but Power has had the performances this year to deserve the title and I’ll bet he’ll relax once he’s finally got the monkey off his back.

    I’m looking forward to a safe, exciting battle to decide it all!

    1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III
      15th September 2012, 18:56

      thx MatK77 :)

  9. It has to be Will Power this time, to be honest. Not that I dislike RHR or anything but I’m gonna have to just choose Penske over Andretti here.

    Also, I’m having mixed feelings about that shuffled grid, with RHR, Pagenaud, Castroneves, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Sato and the lot at the back as I expect all these fellas to push like crazy through the field in the first part of the race. On one hand, this could provide one of the best races of the season. On the other, it’s somehow a bit reminiscent of last year’s finale…

  10. Wow, and they moan about power discrepancy at Monza for a slight correlation of Mercedes, Ferrari, Renault, Cosworth – look at that list:

    Chevy, Chevy, Chevy, Chevy, Chevy, Chevy, Chevy,Chevy, Honda… Lotus.

    I would be raging as a team boss if my drivers didn’t have a Chevrolet car! Has this been the same story for all of the season?

    1. No, the engines have showed close competition the whole season. Although, at Indy the Chevys qualified better but during the second half of the race you needed a Honda to be up at the front if I remember correctly. Also, early in the season some Chevys had reliability problems between races but it was taken care of easily. The result at this race showed 5 Chevys in the top ten along with 5 Hondas. For the most part it didn’t really matter as long as you didn’t have a Lotus.

  11. Don’t forget that this is partly a result of engine-change induced penalties. 14 out of 26 drivers got pushed 10 places down the grid for switching to the 6th, 7th (or more) engine unit this season and Newgarden, Dixon, Kimball, Pagenaud, Tagliani, Sato, Wilson, Rahal are among them.

    1. This was supposed to be a reply to @calum‘s comment. I don’t know what happened. :)

  12. I just finished watching this race without knowing the result and what a race! Very tense until the final few laps and typically Sato goes and finishes the race for himself and everyone else :P

    Such a brilliant effort from Power’s crew to get him back out on track and for me this race really showed just exciting IndyCar can be when you understand the rules and appreciate how you can still win a championship when you crash out.

    Great effort from Hunter-Reay and he did well to defend from Kanaan under immense pressure.

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      17th September 2012, 2:09

      Hunter-Reay needing to finish fifth or better reminded me of Hamilton in 2008. He did fantastic under pressure though because not only did he have Kanaan to deal with, but Castroneves was flying though the field and nearly got by Hunter-Reay as well.

Comments are closed.