Hunter-Reay trims Power's points lead with Baltimore win
Baltimore, MD (Sports Network) - Andretti Autosport driver Ryan Hunter-Reay kept his championship hopes in the IZOD IndyCar Series very much alive with a much-needed win in the Grand Prix of Baltimore -- the penultimate race of the season.
Hunter-Reay's win coupled with a sixth-place finish for Will Power allowed Hunter-Reay to move within 17 points of Power. The series concludes its season on Sept. 15 in Fontana, Calif.
The 75-lap race on the 2.04-mile, 13-turn temporary street course in downtown Baltimore featured nine cautions. Ryan Briscoe, who won last weekend's event in Sonoma, Calif., led the way during the eighth caution. When the race resumed on lap 70, Hunter-Reay immediately charged past Briscoe to take over the lead.
But Team Penske argued that Hunter-Reay advanced his position on Briscoe before the green flag waved. IndyCar race officials found no reason to penalize Hunter-Reay.
"I saw that (Hunter-Reay) was hanging back, so I didn't accelerate," Briscoe recalled. "The next thing I know he's flying by and the green flag is waving. I haven't accelerated yet, and I was (leading). It was wrong, and I thought we got screwed."
Shortly after the restart, the final caution came for a five-car accident in turn four. It set up a two-lap shootout to the finish. When the race resumed for the final time, Hunter-Reay pulled away from the field, while Power, who was running fifth, made contact with Rubens Barrichello and lost position to him. Hunter-Reay crossed the finish line 1.4 seconds ahead of Briscoe for his series-leading fourth win of the season.
"That's probably the toughest race I ever drove," Hunter-Reay said. "I got nothing left in me and hardly enough to talk. I was just pushing so hard. The only thing I was doing today was winning or else ending up in the wall. We did it."
Following his 18th-place finish at Sonoma, Hunter-Reay came to Baltimore 36 points behind Power.
"This is what racing is all about," Hunter-Reay said. "We're still in it, and we're going to have a heck of a championship final at Fontana."
Rookie Simon Pagenaud finished third, followed by Scott Dixon and Barrichello.
Power started on the pole and led a race-high 22 laps, which earned him a total of three bonus points. He led 70 of 75 laps to win last year's inaugural race in Baltimore.
"Hunter-Reay just jumped that (second-to-last) restart and didn't get a penalty, but anyway, that's life," Power said. "He just took off, and Briscoe hadn't even gone. (IndyCar race director) Beaux (Barfield) didn't do anything about it. That's strange."
Oriol Servia, Alex Tagliani, E.J. Viso and Helio Castroneves completed the top-10.
Castroneves and Dixon, a two-time series champion, are the only other drivers who remain mathematically eligible for the title. Castroneves trails his teammate, Power, by 52 points, while Dixon is one marker behind Castroneves.
The Auto Club Speedway in Fontana is a two-mile oval. Hunter-Reay has four oval wins, including two this year (Milwaukee and Iowa). Power's lone oval victory in the series came in June 2011 at Texas.
Power has been the runner-up in the IndyCar championship the past two year. He held an 11-point lead over Dario Franchitti entering the last race of the 2011 season at Kentucky. Power's 19th-place finish compared to a second-place run for Franchitti there put Power 18 points behind.
"We just have to do our best," Power said. "We have to get everything right. I'm used to it every year. We just have to fight like a dog to the end. That's normal, and we'll come out swinging."
09/02 19:02:49 ET