Thanks for your patience…bed rest has helped with health issues, so we can now take a little time to sit down and type about the last three races of 2012.
The racing this year was definitely something new – the DW12 car is more nimble around the course, and the reconfiguration of turns 7 and 11 led to some excursions. Turn 7 in particular led to spins, taps and incidents that had championship implications. Will Power finished second to team mate Ryan Briscoe, widening his point lead due to Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon having incidents/resulting penalties. It looked like Power was finally going to lock down the championship as the trucks packed up and headed cross-country to Baltimore.
Here’s Bash’s coverage of Sonoma for other sites:
Bash’s Saturday thoughts
Bash’s Sunday thoughts
On to Baltimore.
Wow – As the Wheel Turns could be the name of this one. Chicanery! Drama! Weather! Carnage! Like last year’s debut, the Baltimore Grand Prix was a gripping weekend of track changes, flying over the railroad grade and bouncing into the wall, unpredictable results and fascinating racing. Last year’s chicane was gone – at least at first. Street grinding didn’t help smooth the dip, so the chicane was re-installed. Cutting the chicane as drivers will do ended with cars getting airborne over *it* and careening into the walls, so tire stacks were also added. It rained during the race, on part of the course, for just a few minutes. Teams were split about 50/50 on who stayed on slicks and who went for wet tires and their decisions affected the championship race. Ryan Hunter-Reay won a nail-biter with a late pass on Ryan Briscoe, who was running on fumes. Will Power ended up 6th and saw his points lead cut to 17, which turned up the heat on the Aussie to the boiling point. He was angry about strategy decisions, other people’s actions that were deemed within the rules, and ended up swearing on live radio and paying a stiff fine for it. As confident as were after Sonoma that this was Will’s year at last, we were equally convinced after Baltimore that the pressure was getting to him and his team again. Fontana was going to be veddddddddy eeeenterestink.
It was a million degrees, and we were honestly glad our plans to attend this race had to be canceled due to health. The race was exciting enough watching from home, as JR Hildebrand and Ed Carpenter took turns leading a good part of the race. Sadly, JR brushed the wall and had to spend several laps in the pits getting repairs. The pace was quick, the passing was wild, and then, a quarter of the way through the 200-lap race, it happened: Will Power lost the rear of his car, spun and crunched the wall, ironically almost taking Ryan Hunter-Reay out with him. For the next half of the race, Ryan Hunter-Reay pushed forward, struggling with his car and not quite making it to the 6th-place position he needed to win the title, while Team Penske thrashed on Power’s car. They’d done the math and figured if they could gain one spot (to 24th), they would force Hunter-Reay to need 5th-place or better to take the championship. Power rejoined the fight and slowly clawed up that one spot before retiring for good. Hunter-Reay, with an overheating race car and just not quite enough speed, spent the last quarter of the race hovering around 6th. Most race fans we saw commenting on Facebook and Twitter at this point were hyperventilating from the drama.
At the front of the field, vying for the race win, we had the Target cars of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, as well as Alex Tagliani, Ed Carpenter and Takuma Sato. It was a fight that had an intermission as a caution flew with 8 laps to go when Tony Kanaan hit the wall. Just a few blinks later, the red flag was displayed. Many bewildered fans were looking for SAFER barrier damage or hoping that something serious hadn’t happened to TK while the cars filed into the pits and shut down. Michael Andretti was livid – his team’s number 28 car was overheating, its driver just on the edge of winning the title, and here was something we hadn’t seen before – a competition red. Fortunately, the wreck was cleared in short order and all cars re-fired and resumed the race. Dario Franchitti was being challenged for the race win, Takuma Sato crashed at the last moment, stopping Helio Castroneves’ valiant attempt to overtake Hunter-Reay and push him out of the title win. When it was all said and done, Ed Carpenter was celebrating his second career win and his new team’s first victory while Ryan Hunter-Reay made it an all-American night with the championship win. A dizzying, ever-changing scenario as exciting as the race itself, we think it was a perfect cap to what was a positive season for IndyCar.
We’re still glad we watched from the cool climes of San Francisco, though.
We’ll take a little while to let the season sink in, then come back with some thoughts about it as a whole. But before we go we want to say a couple-three things. First, we weren’t crazy about that competition red. Races sometimes end with a caution flag – we’d rather see that (real) than a non-safety-related stoppage (artificial, contrived) all for the sake of the show. The show was good enough as it was, thanks. Secondly, congrats to Ed Carpenter and his team for capturing their first win in their first season. Second year in a row Ed’s captured the season’s last trophy (last year at Kentucky for Sarah Fisher Racing) – he’s gotta be loving that. Thirdly, respect and congrats to Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport for persevering, digging and fighting for a terrific championship win.