For the third consecutive year, Will Power entered the final race of the IndyCar season with the Championship lead. For the third consecutive year, Will Power is a bridesmaid.
Just days after signing a two-year contract extension with Andretti Autosport, Ryan Hunter-Reay gave his boss a Championship trophy. Ryan won his first IndyCar Championship on Saturday night in dramatic fashion, edging out Power by a mere three points.
Misfortune once again prevented Power from collecting his first IndyCar Championship. He had a 17-point lead heading into Saturday night’s race, when “the mistake” happened again. Power was running on the low side of Hunter-Reay on lap 56 and simply lost control of his machine in turn two when he put his tires on one of the slippery seams.
Hunter-Reay was nearly collected in his spin, which would have resulted in Power winning the title. After an incredible team effort by Team Penske, about 20 crew members were able to somehow rebuild the car and get him back on the track to pick up two more valuable points. They weren’t enough though, as he finished 24th while Ryan came home in fourth.
Ed Carpenter, who was fast all weekend long, won the race on a final lap pass just before the caution came out for Takuma Sato’s crash. Carpenter has won two career IndyCar races. Both were season finale races in which he passed Dario Franchitti on the final lap.
It was a wild, exciting race that featured a lot of passing and costly mistakes. Sure, Power’s mistake may have sealed his own fate, but you have to credit Ryan for doing what he had to do, which was finish the race in the top five. He didn't have the best car, but he drove it to the position he had to have. He is the first American driver since Sam Hornish Jr in 2006 to win an IndyCar Championship.
After climbing out of his car, Hunter-Reay said “My dream’s come true. Unbelievable.” He and his wife were celebrating the moment when Power came by in street clothes to congratulate him on his success. A classy move by a driver that just had his dreams crushed for the third year in a row.
A new IndyCar Champion was crowned this weekend, and the 2012 season has officially come to a conclusion. It was an incredible ending to a fantastic season that was filled with many changes. For the Championship to be decided by just three points on the final lap of a 500-mile race is something you would only see on a movie screen or in a book.
For Hunter-Reay, it truly has been a roller coaster ride. After bouncing around from team to team, he has finally found a home at Andretti Autosport. They now have another Championship-winning driver that still has a fantastic future ahead of him.
Perhaps his wife Becky said it best shortly after he won the Championship. “He got what he deserves.” That’s a statement that nobody can argue with. He earned this Championship.