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.).