What a bittersweet end to the Izod IndyCar Series for Alex Tagliani and the Barracuda Racing team.
Tagliani led 19 laps and was out front with 23 laps to go in the season finale MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
But what the team described as mechanical problems ended Tagliani’s night prematurely. He withdrew from the race with 21 laps to go and finished 20th.
Tagliani, driving for the team owned by Valencia’s Bryan Herta, pulled into the pits and relinquished the lead with smoke seeping from the car’s engine. It looked like the engine burned up.
“I think we were the car to beat at the end,” Tagliani said. “I won’t lie, it’s disappointing, but I would race with Honda any given day. I’m very thankful that they allowed us back into their group. I’m a Honda driver and I want to race with them for a long time. These are things that happen. It’s racing, it’s mechanical and it’s out of our control.”
Ed Carpenter won the race taking the lead from Dario Franchitti on the final lap.
Ryan Hunter-Reay won the IndyCar Series championship by the slimmest of margins. He finished fourth in the race and edged out Will Power by three points to win the series title.
Power entered the IndyCar Series season finale with the lead in the standings. But he spun out and crashed early in the race. His team repaired his car and he returned to the race briefly.
Power ended up with a 24th-place finish and completed only 66 laps.
“It was team effort right there,” said Hunter-Reay, driver of the No. 28 Honda for Andretti Autosport. “We were struggling all weekend. I didn't want to let anyone really know about it. We were really in the woods. This hasn't sunk in yet. I just drove 500 miles for my life.”
Photo: Alex Tagliani was leading the Izod IndyCar Series season finale at Auto Club Speedway when his engine blew with 21 laps remaining in the race. (Credit: Tim Haddock)