Rahal’s perfect day

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Graham Rahal’s incredible season continued yesterday with the perfect victory, winning for his father’s eponymous racing team, in his home state at a venue previously owned by Jim Trueman with a Honda powered entrant.

If that wasn’t perfect enough, Rahal also took over the mentality of title hopes momentum going forwards for the championship, by slashing Montoya’s advantage to just nine points, with two rounds to go in the 2015 season.

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Juan Pablo Montoya’s lead cut to 9 points. Photo: Doug Patterson.

The race start was rather controversial. Honestly I was surprised it wasn’t a delayed start. The start order was wrong and a number of drivers complained, at having a disadvantage off the line. All the same, it did make for an interesting start, between Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon, though Dixon ultimately would control the start. Will Power had a tough start dropping to fifth before light contact with Newgarden led to power running off the road.

2015-MidOhio-IndyCar-RaceStart
Race start – Photo: Doug Patterson

Power then had contact with Charlie Kimball cutting the tyre on Kimball’s Ganassi entered Dallara-Chevrolet. Kimball would end up beached off track, bringing out the first full course caution on lap 3, dropping Kimball two laps. Power would later receive a warning from race control for the move.

Whilst under caution pit stops began with Carlos Munoz, Tristan Vautier and Gabby Chaves in addition to Sage Karam taking to pit road. Unfortunately for Sage a penalty was called for him being out of line on the initial start. Placing Karam to the rear of the grid for the restart.

On the restart, it was Luca Filippi vs Helio Castroneves as the main battle on track, which Castroneves ultimately benefited from, whilst Rodolfo Gonzalez and James Jakes got together though no caution was called for the incident.

Lap ten and we started to see strategies occuring with Coletti hitting pit road, followed in between lap 10 and 16 by Chaves, Wilson, James Jakes, Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato.
Will Power, Marco Andretti and Sage Karam and finally Josef Newgarden. Whilst the top eight contenders would stay out on track until lap 20. When Montoya hit pit-road, and to his benefit, the caution flew a lap later for Coletti and Sato colliding.

The caution fell against Dixon, who was very close to a stop under green. It was also costly for Castroneves, Filippi, Bourdais, and Hunter-Reay among others, and really shook the grid up, with the restart being led by Dale Coyne racing’s Tristan Vautier, with Montoya sitting second and Rahal sitting third.

On the restart, Wilson passed Montoya and Rahal, promoting himself to second behind Vautier, whilst Vautier held the lead until his second stop. An impressive feat given the equipment on hand. His pace however was not on level with that of the pursuing cars, and a released Wilson broke out a stronger lead. Scott Dixon’s race meanwhile had taken abit of a turn, being stuck in a chain of cars behind Gabby Chaves, Dixon went to pit road on lap 37, taking the red tyres, in an attempt to improve the cars position longer term.

With Wilson stopping on lap 39, Rahal on 40 and Montoya on 41, Newgarden would take the lead for a lap before Castroneves handed the lead back to Montoya through pit cycles by lap 48, with Newgarden, Rahal and Wilson behind.

Justin Wilson at the Keyhole on Sunday - Photo : Doug Patterson
Justin Wilson at the Keyhole on Sunday – Photo: Doug Patterson

Takuma Sato would retire from the race on lap 60, with the team coming across the radio, informing the Japanese driver that they are out of parts, and therefore the car will be retired, following another damaged rear wing.

Then came the controversial part of the race, which is still to be resolved. On lap 63, Scott Dixon came into the pits, with Ryan Hunter-reay also coming on, followed by Justin Wilson and Tony Kanaan stopping on the following lap.

On Lap 65, Sage Karam had a very unusual spin at turn 5, which race control has since placed under investigation, so we will find out on Wednesday, the outcome of the decision.

Now I understand the conspiracy here, Ganassi have just pitted it’s two lead cars. Rahal and Pagenaud just made the pits before closing whilst the championship leader, Montoya didn’t and therefore ended up being at a serious disadvantage for the final segment of the race.

I aren’t convinced it was foul play. I understand the Penske & Ganassi conspiracy theories but I don’t really agree with them generally, and certainly not in this case. However I guess abit of controversy isn’t doing the series much harm in people discussing it, so long as it doesn’t transpire into cheating and therefore damage the series. Especially when it comes to the desire of INDYCAR to make Sage Karam into it’s new poster child for disobedience.

Sage Karam on track - Sunday. Photo by Doug Patterson
Sage Karam on track – Sunday. Photo: Doug Patterson


On the restart Rahal led, whilst Kimball ended up off track for the second time in the afternoon, with contact against Briscoe. Kimball appearing to squeeze the SPM pilot, which he managed to recover from, before a third and final trip to the gravel, brought out the caution on lap 83, with Kimball finally retiring after doing the same move with Gonzalez, to similar consequences.

Rahal on the final restart, would face a challenge from Justin Wilson with Wilson having push-to-pass remaining. He used it on the restart to try and clear Rahal, however an overtake was not forthcoming despite Wilson’s best attempts on the restart, an overtake was not forthcoming and a slight lock up, would result in Rahal being able to secure the lead from Wilson clearly, and bring home a well deserved victory at his home race, ending a fantastic weekend of racing at the Honda Indy 200, in front of a very strong crowd attendance.

Graham Rahal during the race - Photo: Doug Patterson
Graham Rahal during the race – Photo: Doug Patterson


Other notes

The LED arrays worked very well, and the pit stop time feature was very well received. It was also good to see INDYCAR get some coverage for these outside of the usual media which would cover the series, Engadget for example published a piece on the INDYCAR adoption of these systems, which is a positive for the series.

2015-MidOhio-IndyCar-LEDs
INDYCAR mandated LED panels. Photo: Doug Patterson

The final note I have, is given the interest within the Indycar series paddock, and the wider racing world, on Graham Rahal’s victory in Ohio state. A perception existed that it would bring to the series into the spotlight in the mainstream print media.

Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and that asks the question, what does Indycar have to do to be recognised prominently by the print media today in the USA? Because realistically it’s hard to get a more perfect storyline than this weekend’s winner.

A special thanks to FBC’s Doug Patterson for capturing the incredible photography used in this review. The Verizon Indycar Series returns on August 23rd with the Pocono 500.

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lionstorm

When Dixon and teammate pitted with Montoya out front, I muttered to myself that we’d probably see a full-course caution arise due to some event involving Karam, who’d be the sacrificial lamb for Dixon’s cause. And, before I could take another sip of my beer, Karam mysteriously spun out, though it turned out that the driver benefited most was Rahal, not Dixon (though Dixon did benefit, too). Sure, there’ll be an investigation, but it’s awful hard to prove that Karam’s spin was a planned endeavor. Suspicious, though, for sure. That all said, it was an entertaining race, and fun to… Read more »

Rob Carroll

Truth be told, I linked to your article through an F1 website, so I won’t claim any specific knowledge about the Indycar series. You may have some insight into motor racing? Maybe not? But I’m guessing that writing isn’t your primary profession, Tom? That would be a good thing as your article is littered… no, polluted with obvious grammatical errors, and is in places almost completely indecipherable? I suggest having someone with at least a working knowledge of the written English language proofread and edit your work before posting it for public consumption? Now I’ll go back and read it… Read more »

Tim C.

Hum . . . Do we need a little decorum and civility here?

Rob Carroll

Decorum and civility? I thought my criticisms were entirely apt and reasonably polite? No personal insults or vulgarity included, but I respect your right to disagree!

jcn115

Tom, why you don’t believe that there was foul play with Sage’s spin. It would not be the first time that something like this has happened. Remember F1’s crashgate of 2008, Nelson Piquet Jr crashed on purpose in order for Alonso to win and Marco’s first win in Sonoma in which he was in the lead but didn’t have the fuel to finish unless there was a yellow and his teammate Brian Herta spun out bringing the caution. The problem with this is that is very difficult to prove and unless someone admits the foul play, like Piquet did…

xorpheous

I’ve known Sage for a long time and have interviewed him several times throughout his Mazda Road to Indy career, and I have a really hard time thinking this was a purposeful spin on his part. Is he agressive? Yes. He’s also still a rookie in IndyCar and needs results to help secure his 2016 position. Although Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Rahat may disagree, Sage is good folk.

jcn115

I understand what you are saying. I don’t disagree that he is a good kid, but your statement that he needs to secure his 2016 position, it would help to retain his position if he does what he is told in order to prove that he is a team player. look what happened to Nelson Piquet jr, I’m sure that he is a good person, but he crashed on purpose to help his teammate because he was told to do so. When the team dismissed him, then he decided to spill the beans.

Tom Firth

My reason is the chance of securing a victory and therefore maximum points was far lower than in previous instances of alleged race fixing. For example: Herta and Andretti, Piquet and Alonso, etc whereby it was fairly inevitable that the victory would go to team committing the act. Dixon came out in fourth, at Mid Ohio, a circuit not exactly known for mass ability in overtaking, behind Rahal, Wilson and Pagenaud, passing those three, which a spinning car gave a potential advantage too, seems far to high risk for me. You also have to think the impact, would cast a… Read more »

Tom Firth

The other part is the delivery of the message. How would Ganassi do it when the communications between drivers and pit wall are non-encrypted. Robin Miller at RACER stated that on the pit wall, Dixon’s crew handed a message to Sage’s crew. now I’m sure if that message was relayed afterwards as a code word over team radio. The World which heard it would now be shouting conspiracy, given that Miller said what the code was alleged to be, never mind that Penske would be shouting it from the rooftops, because Penske and the Penske fans would of heard it… Read more »

Tom Firth

I also have abit of faith, that Ganassi wouldn’t use those tricks at a track that has a strong history for them, and have some faith in Sage. The same as Doug.

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