IndyCar Title Down to the Wire
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on September 12, 2012 | 9:30 A.M. EST
Will Power leads Ryan Hunter-Reay by 17 points heading into the season finale. (Photo: Getty Images)
Power brings a 17-point advantage over Hunter-Reay into the season finale to be held at the 2-mile superspeedway.
It will mark the 13th time in the last 17 years - and the seventh season in a row -- the IZOD IndyCar Series driver championship will be decided in the final event.
"We have a 17 point lead and it's going to be interesting, a 500 mile race,” said Power, who looks to bring Team Penske this year’s crown. “Maybe it will be the first last race that I finish because every year I get crashed out. So I'm determined this time to just finish the last race and finish it as the leader of the championship."
Power, who has finished second in the championship race behind Dario Franchitti the last two seasons, controls his own destiny.
He can clinch his first series title if he finishes first or second in the 200-lap race to be held under the lights on the oval in Fontana, Calif.
However, Power is not taking anything for granted considering the many variables over the course of the second 500-mile race of the season.
"During a 500-mile race, anything can happen and it will be very exciting for sure,” Power said. “We want the championship and will work with a 100 percent focus to get it. Now 'til the checkered flag falls, no slowing down."
Hunter-Reay does have an opportunity to make up ground on Power and take the title through a variety of scenarios, including a tiebreaker like the one that decided the 2006 championship.
The Andretti Autosport driver’s most direct route to the title is to win and sweep the three bonus points (1 for pole, 2 for most laps led) while Power finishes fourth or lower.
Hunter-Reay brings a great deal of determination with him this weekend.
"The championship was on the line (at Baltimore) and that's really the only thing I'm fixated on winning,” Hunter-Reay said of the last race on the schedule. “This is all I've worked for my entire life. I haven't been nervous at all or anything. I've just been enjoying it and driving 110 percent, and really getting along with the cars and feel like I'm in rhythm with the car. Hopefully, we'll have that at Fontana, too."
Both drivers had the opportunity to test at Auto Club Speedway, which after several years returns to the IndyCar calendar this season. Each title contender came away impressed with what they experienced during the session.
"This track will be great to race on; it is so wide and we'll have room to drive," Power said after the test. "We all have a long way to go, but I think I have already run three completely different setups and we still have lots to learn before we come back and test next week and then qualify and race.”
Hunter-Reay has experience racing at Fontana but the track has changed since his last time behind the wheel.
"I haven't driven around the track since 2003 in a Reynard and I can tell you, the track has picked up some 'character' since then," said Hunter-Reay, who grew up nearby. "But the race will be the same for all of us and I fully expect that the fans will see a fantastic race. We are chasing Will and want to keep hunting him to win the championship.
"We've already put a number of setups on the car and I think when we get to the race the fans will like what they see, and I think that Chevy engine is up to the task. We are going to put on a great show -- very similar to Texas -- and I hope that we come out on top with a win and the championship."