Baltimore flashback: Hunter-Reay kept 2012 title hopes alive with win (VIDEO)

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As you may know, Ryan Hunter-Reay won last year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship over Will Power in the final race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

But the American driver likely wouldn’t have been in position to do that if he hadn’t triumphed two weeks before on the streets of Baltimore.

In that race, Hunter-Reay took the lead for good when he was able to get past Ryan Briscoe on a restart with six laps left. Roger Penske, then Briscoe’s team owner, called for and received a review of the restart from INDYCAR, but no action was taken against Hunter-Reay.

A multi-car incident at Turn 4 occurred shortly after the lead change, setting up a final restart with two laps to go. But Hunter-Reay would hold the point and go on to take a critical victory.

An early rain shower that affected some parts of the course made for interesting strategies. After the race went under its third full-course caution at Lap 19, Hunter-Reay opted to stay out on his dry slicks while Power and others hit pit road for wet tires.

But the track quickly dried up and Power had to pit again for slicks on Lap 27, knocking him back to 17th. However, Power put his street-course skills to good use, and actually rose back up to the lead prior to his final stop at Lap 56. He came out eighth after the stop, and eventually finished sixth.

Still, Hunter-Reay’s win on a day where Power had a chance to clinch the championship ensured that the title would be settled on Fontana’s two-mile oval.

There, Power crashed early on – and that opened the door for Hunter-Reay, who finished fourth to become t first American champion since the 2006 season (Sam Hornish Jr.).

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.