TERRE HAUTE — Ryan Hunter-Reay is your 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champ and he did it in dramatic fashion Saturday night in California.
The new champ trailed Will Power in the points going into the MAVTV 500, the final race of the season, and crashed his car in practice on Friday.
He was nearly lapped by J.R. Hildebrand early in the race but stayed on course and got a boost when Power’s car made contact with the wall on the 55th lap.
The Team Penske crew got Power’s car back in good enough shape for it to return to the track and collect points. Hunter-Reay had to finish fifth to win the championship.
Alex Tagliani was running ahead of the new champ and other drivers were moving up, but Tagliani’s engine expired and Hunter-Reay held on to finish fourth after Takuma Sato’s car crashed on the final lap.
The new champ is 31 and is the first American to win the series title since Sam Hornish Jr. did it in 2006.
He is driving for Andretti Autosport and Michael Andretti says his contract has been extended two years.
Almost lost in the championship drama is that Marshall, Ill., native Ed Carpenter won the race, his second in IndyCar racing racing. He led 62 laps — just one less than the total he had led in all other races.
Congrats to both winners.
It’s a shame that the action probably was seen by a small number of fans with competition from baseball and college football on Saturday and the stands at Fontana were not exactly full.
Racing has been great all season in the series and Saturday’s action was a fitting finale.
* Duncan does it — Illinois State bested Eastern Illinois 54-51 in two overtimes in college football last week to boost the Redbirds to 3-0 for the season.