Every race has that one moment that people remember. Sometimes, it’s good. Sometimes, it isn’t. But it sticks with you.
This year’s Verizon IndyCar Series season is coming to a close on Saturday night at Auto Club Speedway (9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra), and while there’s still 500 miles to go, now’s an opportune time to revisit 2014’s most memorable moments – so far.
You’ll notice in the collection of videos below that for the doubleheader weekends at Detroit, Houston, and Toronto, we’ve opted to go with the best moment from the entire weekend itself. Rest assured that this is only meant for the sake of brevity.
And now, away we go…
FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG
Will Power’s season-opening victory at St. Petersburg wasn’t altogether smooth. Coming to a restart with 28 laps to go as the leader, Power appeared to slow down instead of accelerate (skip to 1:55 in the video above).
That caused the field to stack up, and in the process, Jack Hawksworth hit another car from behind before collecting Marco Andretti.
Power held the lead on the subsequent restart with 23 laps left and went on to win. But the earlier incident led to divided opinions among drivers and team owners on whether Power deserved blame for it.
TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH
Ryan Hunter-Reay was contending for victory in the streets of Long Beach, but with 25 laps to go, he pretty much threw the afternoon away for himself and several others.
A quick pit stop for Josef Newgarden enabled him to come out with the race lead ahead of Hunter-Reay. But instead of biding his time, Hunter-Reay made a risky passing attempt on Newgarden at Turn 4 – and mayhem ensued.
Not one of the 2012 IndyCar champion’s finer moments.
BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK
Hunter-Reay was able to bounce back from that lowlight with a victory in the next race at Barber Motorsports Park. But the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama may have gone Power’s way, if not for an early error at the track’s “Charlotte’s Web” hairpin at Turn 5.
Power was holding a comfortable lead at Lap 15, when he locked up going into T5 and went into the gravel trap (skip to :18 in the video above). He swiped a tire barrier on his way out, but while he was able to get back on course, he’d lost the lead to Hunter-Reay in the meantime. RHR scored the win, while Power finished fifth.
GRAND PRIX OF INDIANAPOLIS
A solid crowd and beautiful weather greeted the drivers as they made their way to the grid for the standing start. But pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled (skip to :25 of the video above), causing a mad scramble behind him to get away from his No. 17 KV/AFS Racing Chevrolet.
Unfortunately, both Carlos Munoz and Mikhail Aleshin got into Saavedra, spraying debris everywhere along the front-stretch. It wasn’t the only wild crash of the afternoon, which eventually ended with Simon Pagenaud atop the podium.
Ryan Hunter-Reay vs. Helio Castroneves for racing’s biggest prize. Nothing more needs to be said. Skip to 7:20 for the good stuff.
Honorable mention to Kurt Busch.
CHEVROLET INDY DUAL IN DETROIT
Power won Race 1 of the Detroit doubleheader at Belle Isle Park, but it was his drive in Race 2 that may be equally memorable. On the first lap of that race, Power attempted to get past Newgarden on the inside but instead made contact that led Newgarden into collecting two other drivers.
Race Control tagged Power for avoidable contact. The Twittersphere cheered. And the Aussie was chastened. Actually, no, the last part didn’t occur. If anything, it just seemed to fire him up as Power roared all the way from the back of the field after the penalty to finish second behind Penske teammate Helio Castroneves.
Oh, what the reaction would have been if Power ended up one spot higher…
FIRESTONE 600 AT TEXAS
Ed Carpenter and Power appeared set to have an old-fashioned Texas duel for the win when the two made their final pit stops together with 36 laps left. But Power was hit with a drive-through penalty for speeding (penalties were a recurring theme for him until just recently).
Smooth sailing then for Carpenter, right? Wrong. A caution with less than 10 laps left gave Power the chance to go in for new tires before a restart with two laps to go.
But while Power rocketed to second with the fresh rubber, he ran out of time to catch Carpenter. With that, the IndyCars’ sole owner/driver joined his road and street course racer, Mike Conway, as a 2014 race winner.
SHELL/PENNZOIL GRAND PRIX OF HOUSTON
Who had Carlos Huertas as the first of this year’s crop of IndyCar rookies to win a race? Be honest, we don’t like liars here.
The result that no one saw coming went down in the first race of the Houston weekend. Huertas stayed out during a caution with less than half an hour to go in the race, and he eventually took control of the lead. The Colombian was able to hold off Juan Pablo Montoya until another caution came out with four minutes left.
Everything was set for a restart with one lap to go, but Graham Rahal got into the back of Tony Kanaan as the field headed for what would have been the green flag. Race Control waved off the restart, giving the upset win to the previously unheralded Huertas.
POCONO INDYCAR 500
The first 158 laps at Pocono went by under green – and with minimal drama. But that changed following the race’s lone restart.
Under attack from teammate (and eventual race winner) Montoya, Power went to defend his lead and knocked Montoya’s front wing end plate off. Montoya was still able to take the lead shortly afterwards, leaving Power to deal with Castroneves.
But when Castroneves went for an inside pass on Power with 28 laps left, Power tacked to the inside twice and forced Castroneves to back off. Race Control told Power to serve a drive-through penalty for blocking, which helped send him to a 10th-place finish.
IOWA CORN INDY 300
You saw it. Yet you couldn’t quite believe it.
During the final caution of the Iowa Corn Indy 300, both Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden rolled the dice, went to the pits, and got new tires ahead of a restart with nine laps to go.
The decision paid off handsomely as the two Americans went through the field like a hungry kid going through an Iowa corn on the cob. And with three laps left, Hunter-Reay caught Tony Kanaan before making the race-winning pass in Turn 1. Newgarden also got past Kanaan in the waning moments for a runner-up.
HONDA INDY TORONTO
Sebastien Bourdais, the four-time king of Champ Car, had not won an American open-wheel race since 2007.
But in the first race of a same-day doubleheader in Toronto, the Frenchman led most of the proceedings from pole before claiming a long-awaited victory for himself and for KV Racing Technology (which had not won themselves since the 2013 Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan).
HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO
Scott Dixon winning at Mid-Ohio after qualifying 22nd? That couldn’t possibly happen, we thought.
But a brilliant all-around performance that featured stellar driving from the New Zealand native and impeccable strategy from his Chip Ganassi Racing team enabled Dixon to earn one of the greatest victories of his career.
Meanwhile, Newgarden had to see a potential first IndyCar win go by the boards thanks to numerous errors on a Lap 65 pit stop. Those problems led to a devastating drive-through penalty that ruined his race.
But instead of frustration, Newgarden showed remarkable poise. There’s a reason why this guy is a fan favorite.
ABC SUPPLY WISCONSIN 250
Nobody had really taken control of the IndyCar championship when the series visited the Milwaukee Mile with three races left in the season.
But Power finally stepped up, and he made his biggest statement of the year. Despite having to save fuel late, Power was still able to leave second-place Montoya stuck in lapped traffic before taking the checkered flag.
And as a driver that was once pegged as a non-factor on ovals, Power relished the moment: “Yes! Man, I love winning on ovals,” he yelled with delight.
GoPro GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA
Last weekend’s race at Sonoma had been owned lock, stock, and barrel by Power until he lost the race off pit road to Dixon under a caution. Then, after restarting seventh on Lap 40 behind Dixon and a group of drivers that had stayed on track, Power spun in Turn 7.
The incident forced Power to rally for a 10th-place finish after falling back as far as 20th. It was a great recovery for sure, and instead of his points lead over Castroneves shrinking, it increased to the current 51-point margin.
But on the other hand, had Power not spun and went on to win instead of Dixon, would we even have a championship battle to talk about right now?