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Three-time defending IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti entered the season seeking his fourth consecutive championship and fifth overall. Meanwhile, two-time championship runner up Will Power sought his first title. Heading into the final race of the season, Power led Ryan Hunter-Reay by 17 points in a two driver fight for the championship. After Power wrecked on lap 55, Hunter-Reay was able to finish 4th, and claimed the championship by 3 points.
It was a triumphant return for Chevrolet after returning from 6 years absence, and an average year for Honda topped by an unexpectedly good performance at the 500 after poor qualifying and thus Chevrolet ending Japanese engine manufacturer nine-year supremacy.
The ICONIC Project
The IndyCar Car ICONIC Project.
The 2012 season saw the implementation of IndyCar's new ICONIC Plan (Innovative, Competitive, Open-wheel, New, Industry-relevant, Cost-effective), the biggest change to the sport in recent history. The car used through 2011, a 2003/2007-model Dallara IR-05, and normally aspirated V8 engines (required since 1997) were permanently retired. The ICONIC committee was composed of experts and executives from racing and technical fields: Randy Bernard, William R. Looney III, Brian Barnhart, Gil de Ferran, Tony Purnell, Eddie Gossage, Neil Ressler, Tony Cotman and Rick Long. IndyCar accepted proposals from BAT Engineering, Dallara, DeltaWing, Lola and Swift for chassis design. On July 14, 2010, the final decision was made public, with organisers accepting the Dallara proposal.
Under the new ICONIC regulations, all teams will compete with a core rolling chassis, called the "IndyCar Safety Cell", developed by Italian designer Dallara. Teams will then outfit the chassis with separate body work, referred to as "Aero Kits", which consist of front and rear wings, sidepods, and engine cowlings. Development of Aero Kits is open to any manufacturer, with all packages to be made available to all teams for a maximum price. ICONIC committee member Tony Purnell gave an open invitation to car manufacturers and companies such as Lockheed Martin and GE to develop kits.
The IndyCar Safety cell will be capped at a price of $349,000 and will be assembled at a new Dallara facility in Speedway, Indiana. Aero Kits will be capped at $70,000. Teams have the option of buying a complete Dallara safety cell/aero kit for a discounted price.
On May 12, 2011, Dallara unveiled the first concept cars, one apiece in oval and road course Aero Kit configuration.
On April 30, 2011, IndyCar owners voted 15-0 to reject the introduction of multiple Aero Kits for the 2012 season, citing costs. Owners expressed their desire to introduce the new chassis/engines for 2012, but have all participants use the Dallara aerodynamic package in 2012, and delay the introduction of multiple aero kits until 2013. On August 14, 2011, IndyCar confirmed that the introduction of multiple Aero Kits would be delayed until 2013 for "economic reasons," and furthermore, it was put off for 2013 as well. Chevrolet and Lotus had already announced their intention to build aero kits.
Turbochargers returned to the IndyCar Series for the first time since the IRL 1996 and Champ Car 2007 seasons respectively. The newly-revolutionary third generation fuel-efficient engines are single and twin-turbocharged engines, tuned to produce a range of 550-700 horsepower (410-520 kW) with a 12,000 RPM limit. The maximum engine displacement was reduced from 3.5 to 2.2 litres (214 to 134 cubic inches), the number of cylinders were scaled-down from eight to six and the engine shape will remain V-shaped. All engines will run E85 fuel; from 2007 to 2011, the series utilized 100% fuel grade ethanol.
The turbochargers are provided by BorgWarner. The third generation of IndyCar Series engines will be used until at least 2021 season
On November 12, 2010, Chevrolet was confirmed as an engine supplier for 2012 with a twin turbo V6. The initial list of potential suppliers included Ford, Cosworth, and Mazda.Honda announced a 2.2-liter turbo V6 developed by Honda Performance Development. On May 27, 2011, Ganassi and Honda announced their partnership renewal for 2012. On August 19, 2010, Cosworth announced their interest in providing an inline-four engine, however, the plan was eventually scrapped. The Chevrolet engine is built in a joint effort with Ilmor who last time partnered Chevrolet in 1997-2002 (1997-2001 as Oldsmobile) and Honda in 2003-2011, and was introduced in partnership with Penske Racing.
The third engine supplier was announced November 18, 2010 at the LA Auto Show, just prior to the league deadline. Lotus announced a twin turbo V6 engine and an Aero Kit. built in a partnership with John Judd and Jack Brabham (Engine Developments Ltd.) Judd engines were used in the CART series and at the Indy 500 from 1987 to 1992, as well as in sports car racing and F1. Lotus has suffered difficulty in both power and delivery of engines and has since pulled out of the sport.
Any engine changes for an engine that has run less than 1,850 miles will result in 10-place grid penalty at the next race. Further, full-time entries are limited to 5 engines per season. There will be two exceptions:
If an engine fails during a race, in which a new engine may be installed for the next event without penalty.
At Indianapolis, all engine penalties will be served at the next race at Detroit. Further, all full-time season entries will receive a new engine penalty-free between Bump Day & Carb Day.
Beginning at Long Beach for all remaining road/street course events, the pits will remain open throughout non-emergency full-course cautions periods. Previously the pits immediately closed upon the display of the caution flag. The series hopes this will shorten caution periods to as few as two laps.
Also beginning at Long Beach for all remaining road/street course events, cars that are not on the lead lap during an upcoming restart in the final 20 laps will peel off and drive through pit lane on the speed limiter and cycle back to the end of the line. The rule was later expanded to oval races as well, where lead-lap cars will simply drive to the front in position order instead. This is similar to NASCAR's restart procedure, where all lapped cars must move to the rear of the field.
For the races at Indianapolis, Texas, and California, restarts will revert to single-file in response to safety concerns.
The 2012 schedule included the following 15 races:
The contract for the Baltimore Grand Prix runs through 2015. However, an issue with the promoter has been in dispute and a new promoter was scheduled to be announced in mid-February. In May 2012, it was announced that Race On LLP and Andretti Sports Marketing had reached a five-year agreement with the City of Baltimore.
Michael Andretti has been announced as the new promoter of the Milwaukee 225. The race, not originally on the INDYCAR schedule, was announced February 10, and is now known as the Milwaukee IndyFest.
The series will return to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for a 500-mile night race on Saturday, September 15, 2012.
A fifteen-race calendar was announced in December 2011; however, amid speculation of a race being organized in Fort Lauderdale, it was reported in January 2012 that the series needed sixteen races in order to fulfill obligations to sponsors.
After the cancellation of the China race, it was believed that IndyCar would need to replace it to fulfill sponsorship obligations. Road America, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Michigan, and a second race at Texas were considered. However, on June 25, IndyCar announced that the schedule would remain at 15 races.
The series was supposed to visit China for the first time; the Indy Qingdao 600 was to be held on a 3.87-mile street circuit in Qingdao over the weekend of August 19, with plans to build a permanent road course for future seasons. However, this race was cancelled by the promoter on June 13.
Teams and drivers
All chassis are composed of a Dallara DW-12 "IndyCar Safety Cell" base and aerokit in 2012. All teams will run Firestone tires.
6.^Dragon Racing was reduced to a single-car team following the Indianapolis 500, as engine supplier Chevrolet could not supply engines for both cars. Bourdais was named to drive on the remaining road and street courses, and Legge was named to drive on the remaining ovals and Sonoma.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports: The team ran Honda engines in 2012. The team announced Simon Pagenaud as its first driver on December 8 and that a second full-time car was "likely", but Pagenaud was the team's lone entry to start the season. On May 3, 2012, the team confirmed that Townsend Bell would drive the #99 car for Schmidt Pelfrey Motorsports.
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing: In November, the team announced that they had signed on as a Lotus works team for 2012. Oriol Servià signed to be one of the team's drivers, but efforts to field a second entry failed to materialize.
Dragon Racing: The team intended to run two full-time cars, with drivers Sébastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge. The team will be powered by Lotus engines. Legge has signed a multi-year deal with the team to drive the #6 car. However, after switching from Lotus to Chevrolet engines, they were forced to contract to a single entry after the Indianapolis 500.
MSR Indy: The team is owned by Mike Shank, A. J. Allmendinger, and Columbus area businessman Brian Bailey. The team was intended to use Lotus engines. The team has purchased a DW12 chassis with the goal of running a full-time IndyCar program in 2012, and took delivery of their chassis on December 15. Unfortunately, the team did not secure the necessary funding to begin the season with often rumored, but never confirmed, driver Paul Tracy. The team originally confirmed Jay Howard for the Indy 500, but Shank released Howard in early May due to the inability to get an engine.
Ed Carpenter Racing: Driver Ed Carpenter and his stepfather Tony George formed a new team, Ed Carpenter Racing. Carpenter was the full-time driver in 2012. The team confirmed a second car for the Indy 500, but the entry was later withdrawn.
Manufacturers' Championship points are awarded based on the finishing position of the highest finishing car of each respective manufacturer at each round.
For 2012, as in recent years, the IndyCar Series schedule split its television coverage between ESPN on ABC and NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus). The season finale returned to NBC Sports Network after airing on ABC in 2011.
As a result of logistics, NBC Sports Network aired 2012 Summer Olympics coverage during the time and ESPN's broadcast and production crew were working the NASCAR Nationwide SeriesU.S. Cellular 250 during a split race weekend for the two NASCAR national series), the August 5 race at Mid Ohio that aired on ABC used the NBC Sports Network crew.
In addition to qualifying and race broadcasts, NBC Sports Network aired IndyCar 36, a documentary series based on NBC's 36 format. Each 30-minute episode features a driver's race weekend. The drivers selected were:
No shows were produced at São Paulo, Detroit, Milwaukee or Edmonton, whereas frontrunners Ryan Briscoe, Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were not featured.
^Not considered a series rookie. He was only considered an Indy rookie.
^Briscoe, the fastest qualifier from the Fast Six shootout, was assessed a 10-place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. Dario Franchitti, who qualified 4th, was the highest-placed driver not to have a penalty, and thus started the race from pole position. Briscoe earned the pole-winner's championship point.
^Hunter-Reay, the fastest qualifier from the Fast Six shootout, was assessed a 10-place grid penalty for an unapproved engine change. Dario Franchitti, who qualified 2nd, started the race from pole position. Hunter-Reay earned the pole-winner's championship point.