Graham Rahal blasted the IndyCar title fight wide open with a hometown win at Mid-Ohio on Sunday.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver saw off a brief challenge from Andretti Autosport’s Justin Wilson on a restart with seven laps to go, and coasted away to secure the victory.
He picked up an extra point on the final lap for most laps led, bringing him to within just nine points of Juan Pablo Montoya with two races remaining.
“Honestly, for me, other than the Indy 500 this is the biggest race of the year,” Rahal said.
“To get this victory at a time when we really needed it … man, I don’t know what to say. This means more than my first win. This is everything.”
Wilson held on for second to secure a one-two for Honda, leaving Penske’s Simon Pagenaud to round out the podium.
The tone of the race was set by the timing of the yellows. Polesitter Scott Dixon held command during the first stint, only to be short-changed when the second caution period fell right before he was due to make his first stop.
That dropped him back into the pack, but was a huge boost for Montoya and Rahal, who had both made their stops right before the yellow and were cycled up to the front. Dixon would have to settle for fourth.
From there, Montoya maintained control of the middle phase of the race, and was preparing to make his final stop when Ganassi’s Sage Karam spun all by himself and brought out another caution.
This time, yellow flags were the last thing that Montoya wanted to see. Rahal and Dixon had already pitted, and he’d just been preparing to come in.
Indeed, both the nature and the timing of Karam’s spin have prompted a post-race investigation by IndyCar officials.
The stop under yellows dropped Montoya to the outer fringes of the top 10, and his aversion to risking further damage to his points buffer took the sting out of his defending during the final laps, leaving him 11th.
Further back, a lot of the day’s action involved Charlie Kimball, who went into the grass on three separate occasions following contact with Will Power, Ryan Briscoe and Stefano Coletti respectively.
RESULTS – 90 LAPS:
|1||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan||Dallara/Honda||1h55m20.0864s|
|2||Justin Wilson||Andretti Autosport||Dallara/Honda||3.4049s|
|3||Simon Pagenaud||Team Penske||Dallara/Chevrolet||4.5706s|
|4||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||5.0293s|
|5||Tony Kanaan||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||10.5943s|
|6||Tristan Vautier||Dale Coyne Racing||Dallara/Honda||11.4414s|
|7||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport||Dallara/Honda||13.8958s|
|8||Jack Hawksworth||AJ Foyt Enterprises||Dallara/Honda||15.0372s|
|9||Carlos Munoz||Andretti Autosport||Dallara/Honda||15.6116s|
|10||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport||Dallara/Honda||16.0094s|
|11||Juan Pablo Montoya||Team Penske||Dallara/Chevrolet||16.1321s|
|12||Gabby Chaves||Bryan Herta Autosport||Dallara/Honda||16.4962s|
|13||Josef Newgarden||CFH Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||18.0350s|
|14||Will Power||Team Penske||Dallara/Chevrolet||18.4290s|
|15||Helio Castroneves||Team Penske||Dallara/Chevrolet||19.1285s|
|16||James Jakes||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||Dallara/Honda||20.1010s|
|17||Sebastien Bourdais||KVSH Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||20.5091s|
|18||Ryan Briscoe||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||Dallara/Honda||20.8331s|
|19||Stefano Coletti||KV Racing Technology||Dallara/Chevrolet||21.5426s|
|20||Rodolfo Gonzalez||Dale Coyne Racing||Dallara/Honda||24.9667s|
|21||Luca Filippi||CFH Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||Spun off|
|22||Sage Karam||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||1 Lap|
|23||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing||Dallara/Chevrolet||3 Laps|
|24||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises||Dallara/Honda||Contact|
LEADING CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS:
|1||Juan Pablo Montoya||465|
|27||Simona de Silvestro||66|