MAVTV 500 2012
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Published on Sun, Sep 16, 2012
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By Brian Kennedy The Izod IndyCar race in Fontana began at 5:50pm Saturday local time. It ended at 8:52pm. Every one of those three hours and two minutes were needed to decide both the winner and the season’s champion. Who will win? The eventual winner was Ed Carpenter, but his greatest heroics came very late. He started the race in fifth spot, and led about one-fourth of the first 100 laps. The event was 250 laps, 500 miles. By lap 122, which he also led, he was starting to drop off, and his most significant period out front during the last half of the race was the handful of laps numbered 229-236. Meanwhile, three other guys looked to be ready to win the race, notably Dario Franchitti, Alex Tagliani, and Tony Kanaan. The latter two dropped out, due to mechanical failure and a crash, respectively. So Franchitti took the point for the first time on lap 224. That lasted just two laps, but he got it back on 237. Some caution laps ensued, and he was out front, under green, when the white flag flew. Carpenter, meanwhile, was chasing, at times gaining the lead before losing it across the start-finish line. Franchitti held point from 237-249. Then Takuma Sato hit the wall while dicing with Ryan Hunter-Reay for third place. Carpenter had just surged ahead of Franchitti coming through turns one and two and heading to the back stretch. The yellow flag flew, and that ended the dice, with Carpenter ahead and Franchitti second.
It was Carpenter’s second career win (Kansas last year was the first) and his first as a team owner. After the race, he was asked what it’s like being both owner and driver, and he said, “I’m not a micro-manager . . . . When I’m at the track, I’m a driver, and everybody knows that they can treat me like a driver, yell at me or whatever.” H kept my cool, kept running a smart race.” On the night, there were seven caution period, including one red flag. That prompted more than a little consternation and criticism. It happened on lap 242 after Kanaan had hit the wall. The race commentators at the track said they were puzzled when it happened, since there was no great rescue effort needed to extricate the Brazilian from the car, and no trail of debris particularly needing cleanup. They weren’t the only ones confused. On pit road, Michael Andretti said, “They’re changing the rules on the red flag. This has never happened before.” Winner Carpenter said after the race, “That red flag, I guess that’s a new rule in IndyCar that none of us had ever heard about, but it worked out for me, so I’ll take it.” There was no official comment made available as of 11pm local time, when I left the track. However, the apparent explanation is that, this being a marquis event, the only 500-miler the series does other than Indy, and the only one in the last half-dozen years, they just didn’t want a finish under caution. The TV broadcast was an enormous four-hour window, too. How deflating would it have been for things to end with eight laps under yellow?
From Andretti’s point of view, of course, it might have looked like they were trying to interfere with his hopes to win the title with Hunter-Reay. When the red was shown, that driver, who needed to finish fifth, was third. Bunch them up for a restart, and you throw the possibility of being passed together with the chance that someone would wreck, and there’s the source of Andretti’s anxiety. After the race, and with championship in hand, Andretti was still unwilling to ignore the incident. “It’s never been done before, and we’re the guinea pigs for it,” he said in the press conference. By then, it was immaterial, of course. Seventeen cars of the 26 which started were running at the end, with six on the lead lap, including Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, and Rahal aside from the two already discussed. Nine cars were penalized for various minor infractions during the event, none of which figured in the results. Officially, there were 29 lead changes, and stats show a dozen different leaders. Carpenter led the most, eight times for 62 laps, with JR Hildebrand second, leading 56 laps over two stints. Tagliani’s grand charge through the pack from sixteenth starting position yielded him 21 laps out front, and Kanaan’s day featured 47 laps in the front off of a third-place start. He ended up 18th, Tagliani 20th. See my next story for the tale of the championship, which is, quite frankly, a good deal more full of intrigue than the story of who won the race, good as that was. Please follow me on twitter @growinguphockey
Read Brian Kennedy's Culture Club: When does car culture equal IndyCar culture? For more information about Auto Club Speedway events, go to autoclubspeedway.com For more information about the 2012 Izod IndyCar schedule, click here