Graham Rahal was a contender throughout at the Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, and jumped long time leader James Hinchcliffe on the final lap to take his first victory of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver admitted he needed to set up the move on Hinchcliffe at the end, but was able to make the move stick, winning by just 0.0080 seconds, the closest finish in the history of Texas Motor Speedway.
“I had to set that (pass) up,” said Rahal. “James did a great job tonight and in all honesty he deserved to win this thing; he led from start to finish. You’ve just got to lead that last lap.
“I knew I couldn’t get him on the high side, everybody kept pushing me way up into the wall even if we were three-wide. They were still just coming on up the track. It was pretty intense.
“I tell you what, if Texas Motor Speedway fans didn’t love that, then they don’t love racing because that was by far the best thing we’ve seen here. We had a hole underneath Hinch and we had to take it. I had to set him up and get him thinking I was going high and then cut across.
“I’m so proud of this Penn Grade team and thankful to everybody that supports us like Steak ‘n Shake, United Rentals, Hyatt and more. It means the world to me.”
Rahal admitted there were two drivers on his mind during the race, with the American driver remembering both Bryan Clauson and Justin Wilson, especially the latter who beat him to a win at Texas on the final lap in 2012.
“In all honesty I was thinking about (Bryan) Clauson but more importantly I was thinking about Justin because he and I had a great battle here a few years ago and he got me at the end,” said Rahal.
“I kept thinking about him the last few laps. I definitely miss that guy. He was a great human being and a hell of a race car driver.”