Rahal plucks lucky IndyCar raffle ticket to take Fontana win

Graham Rahal pulled the lucky ticket in the Verizon IndyCar Series raffle as he took the lead when it mattered to take victory in the MAVTV 500.

There were more than 80 lead changes during the course of the 250 lap race but it was only under a full course caution after Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay tangled and sparked a horrifying crash that saw Briscoe’s car fly through the air. Thankfully he was unhurt.

Leading up to that point, a number of crashes and red flag would punctuate a race many drivers described as ‘too close to 2011’ referring to the tragic race in Las Vegas that saw Dan Wheldon lose his life.

Most of the race saw huge chunks of the field race in big packs together, sparking collisions and incidents that saw a number of cars retire. As Tony Kanaan told Autosport it wasn’t as if they were racing in front of Indy 500 sized crowds who demanded action – only 5000 turned up to the Auto Club Speedway to watch a number of horrendous crashes.

That was a thought echoed by Juan Pablo Montoya who said: “Honestly, I was not a fan of the racing we put on today. What I told IndyCar yesterday was that we shouldn’t be racing like this. This is full pack racing and, sooner or later, somebody is going to get hurt. We don’t need to be doing this.”

Simon Pagenaud started on pole for the race, but that didn’t seem to last long as a slow pit stop saw Kanaan and Marco Andretti fight for the lead. With pit stops well on, Helio Castroneves joined the rabble at the sharp end – but not for long as he hit the wall and sparked the first caution of the race.

A bit further into the race and the pack racing picked out further victims as CFH Racing drivers Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter collided to take each other out of the running.

Into the final stint of the race, and the red flag came out as Takuma Sato was caught by Will Power and the A.J Foyt Racing man slammed into the wall hard. Thankfully Sato was unharmed.

That set up a three lap dash for the money as Rahal was chased by Kanaan and Andretti, who both had to settle for second and third as the race ended under yellow because of Briscoe’s air time.

When the chequered flag fell, Rahal managed to break a streak of 125 winless IndyCar races. He said afterwards: “You don’t know how good this feels. It’s been so long coming; it’s awesome. Went we went back to 16th, I was definitely a little worried there. I knew my car was really good. It wasn’t the quickest up front. I struggled when I got to the front to be as fast as the Chevys, but those last couple of laps worked. I hung onto the bottom line. I’m just proud of these guys.”