High, low and everywhere in between, in a sight unseen for many years of indycar racing, no part of the track was safe. The drivers earned their money Saturday night with a race for the ages, and once again the DW12 and INDYCAR’s aero package proved to be exactly what the track needed to produce the breath taking racing we witnessed during the season finale. Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to capitalize on Will Powers early wreck and finished a mere three points ahead of Power and denying him and Roger Penske championship honors for yet another year. Once the smoke cleared, Ed Carpenter went head to head with Dario and came out on top again in a nearly carbon copy finish of 2011 at Kentucky. An absolutely amazing way to finish the 2012 chapter in indycar racing.
Ed Carpenter – Sure, a championship was handed out on Saturday night, but the real show stopper was Ed Carpenter truly taking it to the big dogs and stealing another win on an oval. I honestly thought there would never be another owner/driver win in the series and had all but quit picking Eddie in my fantasy league. Not that I was unsure of his talent, it just seemed like the team was out in the weeds more than it was banging towards the front. Ed is the man, and the last vestige to the USAC history of open wheel racing; the likes of which may never be seen again in a full season capacity. But it takes a team to win an indycar race, and Ed has surrounded himself with some of the best in the business. I hope a real road racer can take a seat at the team next year so we can see what they can really do.
Will Power – Dude! Seriously?! I was shocked that he threw it away so early. All he had to do was exactly the opposite of smashing his car into the fence. All he had to do was keep RHR in sight; he didn’t even need to be racing him. But in a multi-lap battle, seasoned oval driver forced Power lower and lower, causing him to have to race through the seams of the track which would be the cause of his demise. I have given Power crap in the past about his questionable skills on ovals, but I had all the faith in the world that he would at least be able to hold onto the car long enough to clinch the championship. Again, shocked but not necessarily surprised. 2012 turned out to not be Powers year after every competent source pegged him for the Astor Cup in March. WP still has a lot to prove on the ovals in 2013.
500 Miles of awesomeness – All gushing about the race aside; Saturday night was the perfect example of why 500 mile races in open wheel racing are so special. If we look back to lap 147, the final lap completed closest to the 300 mile mark before pit stops started, and Tony Kanaan was leading with Ryan Hunter-Reay struggling back in P8. By lap 218, or 436 miles in and right before final stops, RHR was still fighting an ill handling car in P6 and not in championship contention. Although Carpenter was at the front, it took that final pit stop to help Dario and RHR find a bit more speed. These extra two or three stops really changed the complexion of what could have happened, not to mention we saw a fair amount of equipment attrition as the night wore on. By the end of the evening, if felt like we were watching a patented 500 mile Fontana race.
Red Flag – Possibly the largest point of contention in the entire season and it happened with 10 laps to go in the 2012 campaign. Along with everyone else in TV land, I was quite surprised to see the red fly when Tony Kanaan found the wall. I have no issue with this type of call, but it seemed like teams weren’t prepared for such a thing. What if a car wouldn’t re-fire? This isn’t endurance racing in the sense that you must prove continued starting system reliability. An impassible track is one thing, but light contact is a totally different story. Beaux Barfield got really lucky on this one and nothing wonky happened when the field finally got underway. BxB said he informed team owners that this was a possibility; it would have been nice for him to inform the fans as well.
Restarts – Indianapolis, Texas and Fontana were the site of the only single file restarts all year, and after said races, I believe there is no reason to continue with their usage into 2013. Fontana, which is approximately 19 lanes wide and has a football fields worth of grass separating the racing surface from pit lane, had no excuse not to be a double file restart. Not to mention, the drivers were using every inch of race track from the apron to the wall in the turns and down the straights, so the track should have been considerably cleaner than in the days of hugging the white line all night. The use of single file restarts was an understandable reaction to the events of last October, but their use should be reconsidered for at least Fontana if it returns in 2013.
Could there have been a better way to end the season? The DW12 proved itself in all situations throughout the year and punctuated its freshman year with a style of racing seen nowhere else in the world at any level of racing. We saw something very special on Saturday night and watched the new-and-improved indycar finally prove it is worthy of the 100 years’ worth of oval racing history linked with the current incarnation of American open-wheel racing. There is talk that the street race in Houston, Texas is taking over the honors of holding the season finale; this is unacceptable. Auto Club Speedway has held six CART season finales, was the penultimate round of the IRL for two years and the IRL season finale once. A finish at Kentucky or Chicagoland would be awesome, but it just feels right at Fontana.