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Hunter-Reay comes in fourth, wins IndyCar championship after Power crash

Ryan Hunter-Reay has become the first American to win the IndyCar championship since 2006 with a nerve-racking final drive Saturday night in the season finale in Fontana, Calif.

Hunter-Reay went into the trailing Power by 17 points, but once Power was out of the race, he only needed to finish fifth or better. He worked his way through the field and into position to wrap it up, but had to hold on to pull it off.

He crossed the line in fourth to win the championship by three points.

Ed Carpenter won the race for his second career victory.

Will Power, in his third attempt at winning the IndyCar championship, again had his chances spoiled by a wreck.

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.

Johnson wins pole

Jimmie Johnson won the pole for the Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

The 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup begins with today’s 400-mile race, which Johnson will start from the front after winning his second pole of the year and 27th of his career. Matt Kenseth was third, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth and Kasey Kahne was sixth – but Earnhardt will have to start from the back because of an engine change.

Blaney wins Trucks race

Ryan Blaney became the youngest winner in NASCAR Trucks Series history, taking the caution-filled race at Iowa Speedway at 18 in Newton, Iowa.

Blaney, the son of Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney, was making his third start in the series. He made his Nationwide Series debut at the track this year, finishing 10th.

The 20-year-old Dillon took over the season points lead.

Stenhouse Jr. wins

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. raced to his fifth Nationwide Series victory of the year to take the season points lead, easily outlasting Kyle Busch (2.402 seconds back) at Chicagoland Speedway.

Elliott Sadler, who led Stenhouse by a point atop the standings coming into the race, finished eighth. Austin Dillon finished third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Paul Menard.

Around the track

Roger Penske says he’d consider hiring AJ Allmendinger again, and had the suspended NASCAR driver at the IndyCar season finale as his guest. He said once the driver is cleared to race again, he’s a viable option for both owners in NASCAR and IndyCar. … Formula One driver Robert Kubica has come away unscathed from a rally crash. He drove his Subaru off the road and into the trees during the San Martino di Castrozza Rally, but organizers say Kubica and navigator Jakub Gerber escaped injury.