The MFW contributor team weighs in on who will be crowned the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion.
Steph says: Ryan Hunter-Reay
I hate to say it, I really do, but I think Will Power is destined to lose another title this year.
Note that I said “Power will lose” and not “Hunter-Reay will win” — which is not meant to discount the excellent position RHR and the Andretti Autosport team have put themselves in despite a very roller-coaster season. But the outcome is more or less out of their hands as long as they can keep doing what they’ve done all year, which is to be cool, stay out of trouble, and cross their fingers that something mechanical doesn’t spoil the party.
Power, on the other hand, has two major issues working against him regarding the finale: 1) it’s on an oval, and while I maintain that his driving prowess on ovals isn’t as unpolished as many people claim, the pressure of having to perform as a perceived underdog will get to him easily; and 2) it’s a 500-miler, which gives his team ample opportunity to screw his race up for him in the pits — and the truth is that pit errors have been the true cause of Power’s demise for the past two seasons.
Despite going into Fontana with a mathematical disadvantage and little control over his fate, the fact that Power does have control of the situation to me spells RHR coming out as the victor.
Bash says: Ryan Hunter-Reay
After Sonoma, I left the track thinking the championship would not elude Will Power this season. He seemed extremely focused and had seen his points lead expand in Wine Country. But, despite winning yet another pole in Baltimore and being the defending champion at this race, Will seemed to be letting the doubts creep in. Pippa Mann, INDYCAR Radio’s driver analyst in Baltimore, mentioned that Will didn’t sound confident during his interview before the green flag. Will’s 6th-place finish behind Ryan Hunter-Reay’s win cut his points lead in half and the pressure became evident in his post- race radio interview, where he let loose with language that would have been bleeped if they’d known it was coming.
This kind of unraveling as well as team pit mistakes had cost Power the title in past seasons. Add in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s better win record on ovals and the mental advantage being the hunter brings, and I think Hunter-Reay’s more likely to be the champion when the checkered flag drops at Fontana.
Zachary says: Will Power
There’s no doubt Ryan Hunter-Reay would be a feel-good story if he were to come from behind to win the Series title, but although Power has struggled previously he still has a clearer shot to win his first IICS championship. Even if Power only has an average race, finishing somewhere between P10 and P15, that still sticks RHR with needing around a top-four finish to leapfrog him for the title.
Certainly the specter of Power’s late-season disappointments looms heavy as we head to Fontana. Yet it isn’t as if Hunter-Reay hasn’t had his own ups and downs on big ovals. Yes, Power is in trouble if he is knocked out early, but Hunter-Reay would still need to keep up his end of the deal for it to mean anything. Simply put, while there are many scenarios where Ryan Hunter-Reay could be your champion, the math still favors Power.
John says: Ryan Hunter-Reay
I think Ryan wins the championship with a podium finish at Auto Club Speedway. He has all of the momentum in his favor after Baltimore, and is within just 17 points despite the myriad of bad luck and circumstance that he has dealt with this year. I think Will might get caught looking over his shoulder, wondering how the championship will be ripped away yet again. He seemed more flustered than usual post-race, which may mean the weight of the championship is getting to him.
More than anything else though, my prediction is based simply on oval track results. Ryan is a better oval track racer than Will at this stage in his career in my opinion, and I think the fact that the clincher is on an oval bodes well for RHR. Despite his win at Texas last year, Will continues to have lapses in judgment on the ovals (blocking TK at Texas, hitting Viso at Iowa, hitting the wall at Homestead last year.) Another lapse in Fontana and the title could be a lock for RHR.
Who’s your pick for 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion? Weigh in using the comments section below.