Will Power suffers Fontana heartbreak as Ryan Hunter-Reay triumphs
Will Power suffered the agony of missing out on a first IndyCar title for the third straight season after crashing out in the 2012 Fontana finale.
Power’s exit came just after he and title rival Ryan Hunter-Reay encountered each other on the circuit for the first time.
The Australian, on the lower line, lost the rear of his car on lap 55 and ended up backwards in the wall.
As a consequence his 17 point lead was suddenly in jeopardy, although Hunter-Reay still had to finish fifth to secure the crown.
In the end he sealed fourth, though with late retirements and last-lap battles his crown was by no means guaranteed until the chequered flag flew.
As it did, it also put the seal on a third consecutive year in which Power has finished as runner-up.
He also led going into the final round of 2010, only to be beaten to the line by Dario Franchitti.
This year he ended just three points behind Hunter-Reay.
In the Rankings however Hunter-Reay ended the year still some way off Power, emphasising the very different nature of their campaigns.
For Power, his early exit had no impact upon his position, and he stayed seventh overall, the top ranked IndyCar driver.
Hunter-Reay meanwhile leapt eight spots and reached an all-time high, but was still only 17th.
The disparity can in part be explained by qualifying – Power’s average across the entire season was 5.3, helped in no small part by claiming pole position three times in the final four races.
Hunter-Reay meanwhile started from the front row just once all season (compared to eight for Power) but managed to rack up four wins, one more than Power.
The Australian was arguably the faster driver, then, but Hunter-Reay was able to make more of his opportunities – a trend exposed in the cruellest fashion at Fontana.
Scott Dixon also ended the season in front of Hunter-Reay in the Rankings, even though third place at Fontana led to him slipping two spots to 15th.
Last year’s champion Dario Franchitti meanwhile gained one spot on the back of his second-place finish, rising to 22nd – still some way of the eighth-place in which he started 2012.
His gains were outdone by Fontana victor Ed Carpenter however, who vaulted 13 spots to 100th.
It is the first time the 31-year-old has been inside the top 100 since April 2010.