Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

Hunter-Reay captures IndyCar title after Power wrecks

FONTANA, Calif. — Ryan Hunter-Reay put the American flag back atop the IndyCar podium by snatching the championship away from Will Power in the season finale.

Power, denied for a third consecutive year, was in street clothes watching Saturday night's finish on television after crashing out early in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway. His exit from the race meant Hunter-Reay, who entered the race trailing Power by 17 points, had to finish fifth or better to claim his first championship in a major series.

He wound up fourth — becoming the first American since Sam Hornish in 2006 to win the title — but it certainly wasn't easy.

Hunter-Reay struggled all week at California, even wrecking in Wednesday's open test session, and was off at the start of the race. But he picked his way through the field and was on the edge of where he needed to finish as the laps wound down.

Still, a flurry of late cautions made for some hair-raising restarts and a late red-flag that drew the ire or team owner Michael Andretti. Hunter-Reay managed to hang on in a race that was won by Ed Carpenter, another American.

"I raced for my life. I cannot believe we are IndyCar champions. I cannot believe this," Hunter-Reay said. "My dream has come true."

Power, an Australian who has finished second in the points three years in a row, visited Hunter-Reay after the finish.

"At the end of the day, Hunter-Reay is a deserving champion, a real fighter," Power said. "I've lost the championship three years in a row. I feel bad for Penske Racing."

Power crashed 55 laps into the race, spinning hard into the outside wall when his car slipped in a seam in the track as he raced side-by-side with Hunter-Reay. It was the third consecutive year Power has gone into the finale with the title on the line and had an incident snatch away his chances.

He brushed the wall at Homestead in 2011 and lost the title by five points to Dario Franchitti. Last year, his points lead was gobbled up when another car hit him on pit road in the penultimate race, and he was involved in the 15-car accident that killed Dan Wheldon in the finale.

Power broke his back in that accident in Las Vegas.

"Man, depressing," Power said after leaving the wreck. "I wish I could care less."

Power laughed nervously, searching and failing to find the right words to describe his frustration.

"I don't know what to say. It's depressing," he said. "Depressing to lose the championship again that way. Nothing I can say, mate, it's just depressing. I don't know what emotion to even feel right now."

But his Penske team, which has not won a championship since Hornish in 2006, worked furiously to get his car back on the track so he could turn 12 laps and gain more points in the standings. Power had already changed into street clothes, rushed back into his firesuit, and had a total change of attitude when he got back in the car.

"Keep our fingers crossed," he smiled, his mood completely changed.

Both Power and Hunter-Reay went into the race seeking their first career title, and Power said he watched on TV the closing laps unsure how it would end.

"You never give up hope," he said. "I was thinking anything is possible in IndyCar. Anything can happen."

Comments
What were Rays thinking in ditching Odorizzi, Dickerson, adding Cron?

What were Rays thinking in ditching Odorizzi, Dickerson, adding Cron?

PORT CHARLOTTE – Rays officials insisted Sunday they made the best deals they could in a bad market, trading No. 2 starter Jake Odorizzi for an unheralded Class A shortstop prospect and DFA-ing 2017 All-Star Corey Dickerson in essentially a swa...
Updated: 2 minutes ago
Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

Bubba Wallace emotional after Daytona 500 runner-up finish

DAYTONA BEACH – No, Bubba Wallace did not win the 60th running of the Daytona 500.But you wouldn't have known that after seeing his emotions after he placed second – the highest finish ever by a black driver in the Great American Race.Wal...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
Winter Olympics: First Russian fails drug test at Games

Winter Olympics: First Russian fails drug test at Games

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea ó A Russian has failed a preliminary doping test, the first athlete from the country to come under investigation for using a banned substance at the Games, putting in jeopardy Russiaís efforts to move past a vast, state-backe...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

Mondayís sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballWomen: Florida State at Duke6 p.m.ESPN2Miami at Notre Dame7 p.m.ESPN; 620-AMMaryland at Northwestern7 p.m.FS1Howard at N.C. Central7 p.m.ESPNUWomen: Georgia at Mississippi7 p.m.SECWomen: Syracuse at Pittsburgh7 p.m.Fox SunWomen...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Donít like Rays moves? Youíve got company in Longo

Donít like Rays moves? Youíve got company in Longo

Evan Longoria has said pretty much all the right things since the Rays traded him in December to the Giants.But the former franchise cornerstone felt strongly the Rays made the wrong move in designating for assignment Corey Dickerson and spoke out on...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Winter Olympics: U.S. freestyle skier Nick Goepper conquers his demons and ends up a medalist again

Winter Olympics: U.S. freestyle skier Nick Goepper conquers his demons and ends up a medalist again

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea ó Nick Goepper met Jeret "Speedy" Peterson only once.The larger-than-life Olympic aerial skier left a powerful impression on Goepper, an Indiana kid on his way to his own whirling fame.So when it got bad four years ago, when ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

Austin Dillon wins Daytona 500 after Aric Almirola wrecks late

DAYTONA BEACH – As Austin Dillon celebrated his Daytona 500 win Sunday, he couldn't help but remember the time he was standing there, in Victory Lane, 20 years ago this week.He was 7 then, and his index finger jutted into the air triumphantly t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Shooting from the Lip

Shooting from the Lip

Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.Worst newsSaturday night could not have been fun for Rays fans. Their team traded solid pitcher Jake Odorizzi and essentially let go of 2017 All-Star Corey ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Flats coming to life in north Pinellas County

The flats are really coming to life in north Pinellas County. Our main focus this time of year is spotted sea trout, though redfish are cooperating and schooling a bit. Snook are also responding to the warm weather, occasionally eating on the falling...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jim McElwain reportedly joining Jim Harbaugh at Michigan

Jim McElwain reportedly joining Jim Harbaugh at Michigan

Former Florida Gators coach Jim McElwain is joining Jim Harbaugh's Michigan staff as an offensive assistant, according to a report from ESPN.The Wolverines have not yet formally announced the move.It's the first job for McElwain since he and the Gato...
Updated: 5 hours ago