Australia’s Will Power will have to try and secure his first IndyCar title at the final race of the season at Fontana in California, after rival Ryan Hunter-Reay took his fourth victory of the season on the streets of Baltimore.
Hunter-Reay made up 20 points on Power, who finished sixth in the 75-lap race and takes a 17-point lead into the final on 15 September at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval.
Hunter-Reay overtook Australia’s Ryan Briscoe for the lead on a Lap 70 restart. The move had Team Penske calling for a review into what they called a jumpstart on the race leader.
A full-course caution on the same lap for a four-car pileup in Turn 4 gave Briscoe, who won a week earlier at Sonoma, another shot. But Hunter-Reay used the last of his 90 seconds of push to pass on the Lap 73 restart and went on to a 1.4391-second win over Briscoe.
“We still have a shot,” said Hunter-Reay.
“We all want it bad enough; we can go get this thing. The team deserves it; it’s a matter of if we can put it together.”
Hunter-Reay has four Indy car oval victories, including two this year (Milwaukee and Iowa). Power’s only oval victory came in 2011 on the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway.
“I knew it would be a day like this. It never comes easy,” said Power, who earned the three bonus points for earning the pole and leading the most laps (22).
“We just have to do our best and fight like a dog till the end. We’ll come out swinging.”
Helio Castroneves and two-time series champion Scott Dixon remain mathematically eligible for the title.
Simon Pagenaud, who a week earlier clinched the Rookie of the Year award, finished third for the second time in the past three races and Dixon was fourth in his 200th Indy car start. Rubens Barrichello’s car moved Power to the left in Turn 1 of the final restart and he went on to claim fifth.
Strategy was a major player in the race with Power having the fastest car, but a decision to swap to intermediate rain tyres on lap 17 after a brief shower put him on a different strategy to Hunter-Reay who remained out on the ‘red’ slicks.
Power and others pitted on Lap 27 for the alternate tyres, and they also had to make a fuel stop on Lap 57. Hunter-Reay completed the race on two stops (the second on Lap 53).
“I can’t describe how nerve-racking that is when it rains on a street circuit and you’re on slicks and you know the championship is on the line,” Hunter-Reay said.
“If you get through this thing, you’re going to have a great race. Unbelievable emotions in the car, just trying to tip toe through some of those corners.
“We thought that it was just going to sprinkle and that I would have to live through a little bit of a wet track and hopefully that sprinkle would end, and it did. We never came in for rain tires. I think that was absolutely critical to our win today.”
Results – 75 laps:
|13.||Dario Franchitti||Ganassi||Honda||+1 lap*|
|14.||Marco Andretti||Andretti||Chevrolet||+1 lap|
|15.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti||Chevrolet||+2 laps|
|16.||Mike Conway||Foyt||Honda||+2 laps|
|17.||Justin Wilson||Coyne||Honda||+3 laps|
|DNF||Charlie Kimball||Ganassi||Honda||65 laps|
|DNF||Bruno Junqueira||Fisher||Honda||64 laps|
|DNF||Tony Kanaan||KV||Chevrolet||52 laps|
|DNF||Takuma Sato||Rahal||Honda||50 laps|
|DNF||Simona de Silvestro||HVM||Lotus||38 laps|
|DNF||Sebastien Bourdais||Dragon||Chevrolet||32 laps|
|DNF||James Jakes||Coyne||Honda||31 laps|
|DNF||Ed Carpenter||Carpenter||Chevrolet||7 laps|