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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.