End of a season

FONTANA, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Ryan Hunter-Reay driver of the #28 Andretti Autosport Dallara Chevrolet leads Will Power during the IZOD IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 World Championship at the Auto Club Speedway on September 15, 2012 in Fontana, California. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

In the end, it came down to three points. An American accepted the Astor Cup with the title only decided at the checkered flag. An American stood in victory lane after 500 miles on an oval track.

In other words, it was the coda that many IndyCar fans had only dreamed of for over a decade.

Yeah, I'm not going to get into the caterwauling that broke out when Beaux Barfield threw the red flag at the penultimate caution so that the race would end under green. In every silver lining there's a raincloud, I guess.

But after a season which had more peaks and valleys than a Six Flags rollercoaster, you can't help but give Randy Bernard and the INDYCAR brain trust kudos for delivering the best season in nearly two decades.

So here we are, basking in the afterglow of a dramatic finale to a great season. It is a good note for Bob Jenkins to go out on, that's for sure. The veteran broadcaster is retiring to spend more time with his wife, who has been ill for some time. Still, he got to announce that his friend Ed Carpenter had won the final race he called, and he also got to see Ryan Hunter-Reay crowned as champion.

Bob Jenkins means the world to me because of his career and because of who he is. He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word, and his career puts every American race fan in debt to him for raising the profile of racing in the United States. No one deserves a happy retirement more than Bob. I'll miss him greatly - it truly is the end of an era.

While I'm talking about endings, there is one more which I am loathe to bring up, but must. Tonight also marks the end of Pop Off Valve's coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series.

SBNation, our host for the past three years, is transitioning to a new format - SBNation United - which is a watershed for the network and the sites it hosts. It is a new era for SBN and I am thrilled for everyone involved for their future and what it means for them.

Unfortunately, with the change to SBNation United, the network has re-evaluated its approach to motorsports and is eliminating individual racing blog sites in favor of a centralized motorsports section headed by SBN NASCAR editor Jeff Gluck, my friend and colleague over the past couple of years. SBN still intends to publish IndyCar news on their racing hub, but Pop Off Valve will be archived and, eventually, shut down.

Before I go on, I want it understood that Jeff and SBN offered to let me stay on and publish under United's racing hub, but I have declined that generous offer. While it is true that my readership would likely have skyrocketed, the cost in personal terms was too much for me. The blunt truth is that the job deserves to go to a younger writer with more flexibility, who is closer to Indiana and who has the energy and time to devote to making IndyCar a presence on the United network instead of simply an afterthought or bottom-page curiosity.

So the end of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series is a bittersweet ending for me. The afterglow of the concluded Astor Cup championship and the 500-mile opera that ended it has me happy and excited, but the end of Pop Off Valve adds an edge of sadness. I think in a way it's a good thing - it helps me to appreciate how lucky I was to see this season; more than that, though, how lucky I was to have this platform to share it and the past three seasons with you.

I want to thank Nathan "fleshwound_NPG" Gruenholz, Dale Nixon, Scott Whitmore, Brian Neudorff, Matt Weaver, and Shannon McIntosh for their support and exceptional contributions to Pop Off Valve over the years. They worked without compensation and were - and are - great examples of spirit and talent. I am indebted to you for your influence on me.

I also want to thank everyone in the INDYCAR community - on Twitter and elsewhere - who have supported Pop Off Valve as more than just a blog from a cranky old fat man. That includes my fellow bloggers out there, my Twitter family, and my allies and pals who keep siphoning me press releases and teleconference invitations (even after my employment circumstances changed so that I couldn't call in anymore). I have enjoyed being a peripheral member of the INDYCAR media community as much as anything I have done in racing, and given my history that is saying quite a bit, trust me.

I suppose I could go on, but I think I'll finish with this. Last year we were saying goodbye to Dan Wheldon with bitter tears and mourning. This year, you're only saying goodbye to Pop Off Valve. Given the choice, I'll take the latter any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I am grateful that I am going out on a high note for INDYCAR and that we have so much to look forward to over the next few months.

Thank you, my friends. Enjoy the moment.

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