For the seventh consecutive year, the IZOD IndyCar Series championship will be decided in the season finale.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, who switched to Lucky Charms for his breakfast cereal on this particular day, made sure of that with a stirring victory in the second Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT. Driving the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car, Hunter-Reay started 10th and overtook leader Ryan Briscoe on the front straight of a Lap 70 restart.
A full-course caution on the same lap for a four-car pileup in Turn 4 gave Briscoe, who won a week earlier at Sonoma, another shot. But Hunter-Reay used the last of his 90 seconds of push to pass on the Lap 73 restart and went on to a 1.4391-second win over Briscoe, who started 14th in the No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinishes Team Penske car.
Hunter-Reay made up 20 points on front-runner Will Power, who finished sixth in the 75-lap race on the 2.04-mile, 13-turn temporary street circuit and takes a 17-point lead into the finale Sept. 15 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval. Both drivers will test on the track before the race weekend.
"We still have a shot," a beaming Hunter-Reay said on pit lane after recording his fourth victory of the season in a race that included 12 lead changes among seven drivers. "We all want it bad enough, we can go get this thing. The team deserves it; it's a matter of if we can put it together."
Power, who has been the championship runner-up the past two seasons, led Dario Franchitti by 11 points entering the 2011 finale. He started the race on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval from the pole but finished 19th and, combined with Franchitti's runner-up finish, wound up 18 points back.
"I knew it would be a day like this. It never comes easy," said Power, who earned the three bonus points for earning the pole and leading the most laps (22). "We just have to do our best and fight like a dog till the end. We'll come out swinging."
Simon Pagenaud, who a week earlier clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award, finished third for the two time in the past three races and Dixon was fourth in his 200th Indy car start. Rubens Barrichello's car moved Power to the left in Turn 1 of the final restart and he went on to claim fifth. Oriol Servia, who started 16th, finished seventh.
"I can't describe how nerve-racking that is when it rains on a street circuit and you're on slicks and you know the championship is on the line," Hunter-Reay said. "If you get through this thing, you're going to have a great race. Unbelievable emotions in the car, just trying to tip toe through some of those corners.
"We thought that it was just going to sprinkle and that I would have to live through a little bit of a wet track and hopefully that sprinkle would end, and it did. We never came in for rain tires. I think that was absolutely critical to our win today."
Listen to the INDYCAR Radio Broadcast of the Grand Prix of Baltimore