Baltimore IndyCar: Ryan Hunter-Reay's victory sets up title showdown
|By Mark Glendenning||Sunday, September 2nd 2012, 21:32 GMT|
Ryan Hunter-Reay ensured that the IndyCar title fight will go down to the wire after winning a chaotic race in Baltimore.
The American took the lead from Ryan Briscoe on a late restart, although he nearly lost it on the following restart when he locked up on the way into the first corner and was lucky to avoid both the wall and losing a place to Simon Pagenaud.
Despite the close calls Hunter-Reay continued unscathed and crossed the line with a margin of 1.4 seconds, while Briscoe was able to pass Pagenaud to reclaim second.
Briscoe's result owed a lot to a late string of yellows, which allowed him to stretch a marginal fuel range to make it to the finish without requiring a late stop. Just how close it was for the Australian was proven when he ran out of fuel on his slowing-down lap.
The restart where Hunter-Reay took the lead was a source of some controversy immediately after the finish, with Briscoe's Penske team believing that its rival had jumped early. Replays appeared to prove that the Andretti driver's move was within the rules.
Pagenaud was third, distinguishing himself by making the best restart of the year when he rocketed from sixth to first, but he lost the lead a few laps later when Hunter-Reay leapfrogged him during the pitstops.
Series leader Will Power held command during the opening stretch, but the afternoon was turned on its head when light rain began to fall on lap 18.
Power was among those who decided to switch to wets. However the rain cleared quickly, and a spell under yellows during the same period meant that the track largely dried before those on wets could get any benefit.
Most of those affected switched back immediately, but Power elected to stay out on the wets a little longer. It was quickly proven to be the wrong call, and when he did finally change back to slicks, he was in 17th place and 48.8s behind the leaders.
He recovered back to fifth, only to be hit by Rubens Barrichello on the second-last lap and drop two places, although he managed to repass Oriol Servia to finish a frustrated sixth. Power's lead over Hunter-Reay is now down to 17 points.
The race was interrupted by several caution periods, many of which were triggered by cars hitting the wall at the exit of the chicane.
The one notable exception was Mike Conway, who crashed at Turn 4. Graham Rahal spun trying to avoid him and tipped Justin Wilson into him instead, an accident that ended with Wilson's car straddling the top of Conway's.
Results - 75 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy 2h09m02.9522s 2. Ryan Briscoe Penske Dallara-Chevy + 1.4391s 3. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda + 3.0253s 4. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 3.9281s 5. Rubens Barrichello KV Dallara-Chevy + 5.0450s 6. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy + 5.7467s 7. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy + 7.5913s 8. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda + 7.7701s 9. EJ Viso KV Dallara-Chevy + 8.8651s 10. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy + 9.0843s 11. Graham Rahal Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 10.2963s 12. JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy + 17.1591s 13. Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 1 lap* 14. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy + 1 lap 15. James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy + 2 laps 16. Mike Conway Foyt Dallara-Honda + 2 laps 17. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda + 3 laps Retirements: Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda 65 laps Bruno Junqueira Fisher Dallara-Honda 64 laps Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy 52 laps Takuma Sato Rahal Dallara-Honda 50 laps Simona de Silvestro HVM Dallara-Lotus 38 laps Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy 32 laps James Jakes Coyne Dallara-Honda 31 laps Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy 7 laps * Not running at finish