The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Champion is Ryan Hunter-Reay. The American landed the title after finishing fourth in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in his Andretti Autosport Chevrolet Dallara. Sam Hornish Jr. was the last American to notch the title and that was six years ago.
Probably the most significant thing that occurred at Saturday night’s race happened early on lap 55 when points leader Will Power spun due to a loose handling car and crashed into the Safer barrier in Turn 2. This crash cost the hard driving Australian an IZOD IndyCar Series championship for the third year in a row.
Once the title fight was pretty much over, unless Hunter-Reay or his team made a mistake, the MAVTV 500 was USA all the way, baby. The race was won by an American driving an Italian chassis powered by an American engine.
It was Ed Carpenter’s first race win as a team owner and his second win in the series. Because of the championship, his win was in many ways overshadowed, which is a shame because, having qualified ninth, he was able to start fifth due to all the grid penalties. Carpenter ran a clean race and was up at the front all 500 miles of the race. “It was a wild race. I’ve never done a 500 mile race before other than Indianapolis”.
Target Team Ganassi drivers Franchitti and Scott Dixon finished the race second and third respectively. Both managed to race to the front especially Dixon after being penalized grid positions after he qualified fifth. He started fifteenth. Franchitti had less distance to travel to be a front running car, as his 18th place start became an 8th place starting position due to those grid penalties – most were due to engine changes for the final race of 2012.
Both team members were very complimentary towards the Penske drivers; especially Power, who almost won the championship. They also complimented Andretti Autosport – the championship team. Franchitti is good friends with the Andretti team saying, “Congratulations to the Andretti guys” and adding “Well done to Ryan, he drove a great race.”
Getting back to old team USA, the championship was won by an American driver who drives for an American team. Hopefully, all this USA winning will help boost attendance at races next year. Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti was quick to point out that Americans winning only makes sense when the Americans can beat the best drivers in the world, which was the case this year.
Andretti characterized the night as “crazy”. But he admitted, “I’m just so proud of everybody here with the DSL/Sun Drop team….There’s a lot more to come. This team is still getting better and better and I think we’re going to be even stronger next year”.
Surely the happiest person at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday was IndyCar champion Hunter-Reay. I recall interviewing him in 2003 when he was with an underfunded CART team driving a very slow Reynard chassis and him telling me that one day, he would be an open wheel champion. It seemed rather far-fetched at the time, but Ryan has persisted, and according to him, he’s had the dream since he was 6 years old, and I believe him. I’ve seen few drivers from any country persevere as he has with at times, few opportunities, awful cars, sometimes awful owners, and yet, every time I’ve seen him either in person or on television, he was remained relentlessly positive and focused on this goal. This is a driver who plays the hand he is dealt as best as he can, and for this and other reasons, I think he absolutely deserves this championship.
With this race and the championship decided, the 2012 IZOD IndyCar series comes to an end. We bid farewell to long time announcer, Bob Jenkins, who is retiring due to his wife’s illness. And without a schedule, we can’t tell you where the next race will be, but I can tell you that we will be there!
Story by: Lisa May Davidson