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WATCH: ACS Foundation 100 Winner Carlos Munoz, 3rd Place Finisher Esteban Guerrieri & Indy Lights Champion Team Owner Sam Schmidt

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2012 MAVTV 500 :: IZOD IndyCar Series Championships

AUTO CLUB SPEEDWAY IN FONTANA, CA

Saturday, September 15, 2012 on NBC Sports

 

Hunter-Reay clinches first IndyCar championship; Carpenter wins MAVTV 500

Esteban Guerrieri takes checkered flag in Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Ryan Hunter-Ray celebrates his first IndyCar title at Auto Club Speedway on Sept. 15, 2012.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

WATCH: 2012 IndyCar Championship Team Owner Mario Andretti

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FONTANA, Calif. -- Ed Carpenter won Saturday's season-ending MAVTV 500 IZOD IndyCar series race at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday under the lights. But the big story of the day was Ryan Hunter-Reay's first IndyCar championship title. It was all about the U.S.A. The American-born driver won the title for an American manufacturer. It was the first series title for Chevrolet since 2002. Earlier in the day, Carlos Munoz took the checkered flag in the final Firestone Indy Lights race of the year, the Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100.

The 250-lap race lasted just under three hours. The average speed was 168.939 mph. The air temperature was 98 degrees at the start of the race while the track teperature was 113 degrees. Will Power crashed into the turn two barrier on lap 55 dashing his hopes for the title. He was checked and released from the infield care center.

"It's depressing to lose the championship again that way," Power said. "It's the season, you can't make mistakes like that. I had understeered all night, I was having to lift, half a lane lower than I was before and caught a seam, and yeah. I was surprised, I had been pushing all day and just went a little bit different than what I had, and nothing I can say. My team was pushing me to get around him, and it was just a mistake. It's just depressing."

On lap 74, J.R. Hildebrand made light contact with the same SAFER barrier. Smoke was coming out of Rubens Barrichello's car on lap 107. A small fire started and then he climbed out unharmed. On Lap 181, Ryan Briscoe's car made contact with the turn four barrier. On lap 230, Alex Tagliani had a mechanical issue.

Tony Kanaan's race car spun out and made contact in turn one on lap 241. He was checked and released from the infield care center.

"I was trying to go for it," Kanaan explained. "I had nothing to lose. I was trying to win the oval championship. I got caught in the middle of traffic and just lost it. It's a shame. We had a strong car when I was in front. It is what it is. Let's move on and get ready for next year."

By lap 247, Franchitti was leading Carpenter by 0.4967 of a second. Two laps later, Takuma Sato spun out and made contact in turn two. That gave the lead to Ed Carpenter who won the race under a caution. His margin of victory over Franchitti was 1.9132 seconds.

"That was a wild race," race winner and team owner Carpenter told the media. "I had never done a 500-miler before other than Indianapolis. It was fun. We started out great. The track changed a lot. It took a few stops to get the right adjustments. I got a really good run on the start. I wanted to be able to get around him before that yellow. I stayed clean of Dario. The red flag, I guess that's a new procedure we have in IndyCar, none of us had heard about. But it worked out for me tonight so I'll take it. I wish our season wasn't over. We have a long off-season."

Hunter-Reay only needed to finish above sixth position to win the championship. He passed the finish line in fourth. Hunter-Reay finished the season with a total of 468 points, three more than Power.

"I'm very proud of my country," Hunter-Reay said. "It's just amazing to get it done. Will is one of the greatest talents of IndyCar, but we had a breakout year. We've been riding the wave of momentum. We were struggling this week. We have a great relationship [Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti]. The guys did a great job in the pits. The temperatures were hot, way over operating range. Everybody was overheating problems. The most pressure in my life was the last 20 laps. You try and stay cool. It's the biggest opportunity. Just never give up."

Mario Andretti became the winning team owner for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar series after his driver, Hunter-Reay, clinched the title. This is Andretti Autosport's fourth IndyCar championship after Kanaan in 2004, Wheldon in 2005 and Franchitti in 2007.

"It was a crazy, crazy night," Andretti explained. "That's exactly what we told him going into the race. We knew it was going to be tough. We had a car that was not so good in the beginning. Every pit stop, we kept making it better and better. Ryan did one hell of a job. He drove his butt off when he needed to. We got it done. It feels really good. It was a nerve-wrecking day. Everybody worked really hard. The three worked together [Hunter-Reay, Chincliffe and Marco Andretti]. They're friends. I heard Power hit the wall and didn't win. Hats off to the Penske guys."

Chevrolet celebrated its first manufacturer series title after returning to IndyCar at the start of this season. Previously, Chevrolet participated as an engine manufacturer from 1986-93 and 2002-05 with its V8 engines. During that period, the automaker finished with 105 race wins and six driver championships.

"Chevy has just been awesome from start to finish," Hunter-Reay explained. "They've given us the power to win this championship. Chevy has done a magnificent job. I couldn't be happier to win for an American brand."

Andretti added: "Chevy has been a great partner. We evaluated which way to go at the end of this year. We just felt like they are a real strong company. They are really serious about winning. We really felt confident that we were going to make the right decision with going with Chevrolet. Obviously, in the end, I think we did."

There were 43 caution laps and 29 lead changes during the MAVTV 500. Franchitti had the overall fastest lap of 216.561 mph on lap 228 while Carpenter had the fastest leader lap of 215.745 mph on lap 229. Pole winner Marco Andretti finished the race in eighth position. Only six cars finished on the lead lap.

Vautier wins Firestone Indy Lights title; Munoz takes checkered flag in Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100

Earlier in the day, rookie Carlos Munoz won the season-ending Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100 race. The air temperature was 102 degrees at the start of the race while the track temperature was a balmy 137 degrees. Munoz's margin of victory over David Ostrella was 0.6344 seconds. Munoz also had the fastest leader lap with a speed of 187.391 mph on lap five.

"No words to say, my last race of the season win so I'm really happy with the Andretti team giving me a great car," Munoz explained. "I knew I had to save some tires. I was running really high to save tires and keep my speed up. Ostrella was catching up and we won. I knew in these oval races, anything can happen. Yesterday, in the second practice, I was not feeling really good with the car. We worked a lot yesterday night with my engineer. Just today, I had fantastic car overall with the race. It was great and now I'm pretty happy."

There were two cautions during the race. The first one was for a "no start" from laps one through two. The other was for Jorge Goncalvez's crash in turn four, which lasted for laps eight through 10.

"It was a hell of a season," said 2012 Firestone Indy Lights Champion Tristan Vautier. "We had a few bumps on the road. We managed to do it. It was a very tough day today. I struggled with my tires. Today, the air was not too humid. I was expecting it to be harder. I managed to get fourth position, but be not too greedy. I tried to keep cool and it worked. I can't be thankful enough to Mazda for what they do for young drivers. I would not be in this seat without the scholarship I got from them. A lot of pressure last year as well."

Ten of the 14 drivers finished on the lead lap. Pole winner Sebastian Saavedra had a mechanical problem and wasn't able to complete a single lap. Jorge Goncalvez got into a crash on lap six, Peter Dempsey had a mechanical issue on lap 15 and Gustavo Yacaman finished one lap down.

Vautier's team owner, Sam Schmidt, added: "Race where you can, win and dominate. It was a pretty easy decision for him to go back to Mazda and compete for the championship. I knew it would happen just like this. He would have no problem winning. We have a phenomenal group of people on our Indy Lights team. It's been almost like a dream. We had to make a lot of changes this time last year . He was extremely focused in and out of the car."

The Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100 race took only 37 minutes and 38 seconds to complete. The average speed of the 50-lap race was 159.410 mph. Second-place finisher David Ostrella was credited with the overall fastest lap with a speed of 187.513 mph on lap 13.

Next up: The drivers will have several months to relax before the 2013 season gets underway on the Streets of St. Petersburg.

Related Stories: MAVTV 500 Official Race Results; Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100 Official Race Results

 

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Ed Carpenter passed Dario Franchitti to win the MAVTV 500.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Carpenter celebrating his victory with his crew.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and his team owner, Michael Andretti.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Carlos Munoz brings his Indy Lights car into the Fuzzy's 19th Hole Victory Lane after winning the Auto Club Speedway Foundation 100 race.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

From left to right: David Ostrella (finished second), Carlos Munoz (race winner) and Esteban Guerrieri (finished third).

 

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