Graham Rahal led a Honda 1-2 at his home race – Mid-Ohio – to move to within nine points of the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader with two races left to go.
At the start of the race, it was pole-sitter – and lap record holder – Scott Dixon who led the first 22 laps of the 90 lap race surviving an early caution period after Charlie Kimball span at turn six and took a couple of laps to recover.
He was going well until lap 22 when a second full course caution for a lot of debris on track saw a lot of the grid take an early stop and slightly rejig their strategy.
From then on, the Target Chip Ganassi driver didn’t see clear track again as both Tristan Vautier and Justin Wilson led a handful of laps before points leader Juan Pablo Montoya led a significant chunk of the middle of the race.
Unfortunately for him, a caution period two-thirds of the way into the race saw teams gamble on strategies and for Montoya, a strong lead slipped away and an eventual finish of 11th will have done nothing to defend his lead as he looks to power towards the IndyCar crown.
The Team Penske driver said: “We did everything we were supposed to do today and the race was playing out perfectly for us. Unfortunately, we got a caution with about 25 laps to go that we didn’t need. It worked out for some and didn’t work out for others. But we had a great car and we still have the points lead. I’m ready for Pocono where we won last year.”
Back in the race and after that caution period ended, Rahal found himself at the front of the field and holding on for all he was worth as Wilson, Simon Pagenaud and Dixon all tried to unseat the Steak ‘n’ Shake backed Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver as he looked to extend a run of form that included a win, a third and a fourth in the last three races.
The Ohioan managed to cling on for a win, with Brit Justin Wilson taking second place – his first podium since Houston 2013 with Simon Pagenaud coming close behind.
For Rahal, a win at Mid-Ohio takes on a special significance with the track proving a launch pad for the glittering career of his father Bobby Rahal.
He said: “Honestly, if I’d won a lot of races in my career but I never won this one, I think I’d be pretty disappointed. For the Rahals, when it goes back to Jim Trueman and everyone else, this track has been pretty special to us for so, so many years. Jim was the man who founded this place, got this place going. He was also the one who got my dad started in racing. It’s come full circle.”
Wilson was pleased to take a podium in his Andretti Autosport Honda, admitting it was proving to be a challenge to get past Rahal.
He stated: “Graham was great on the brakes, there was just no way to beat him – he was a man possessed!
“I was pushing hard. I had one push to pass left, and Graham was out of his. I knew he was going to go to the inside and I had to go to the outside. All the credit to Graham and the Rahal team. They did a fantastic job! I was close to being able to pull ahead there, but I know Graham is going for the championship and contact wasn’t an option. It’s great to get a good result here and continue to build toward next year and see what happens. Hopefully something will come together.”
For the whole field, a trip to the ‘Tricky Triangle’ of Pocono is next which is playing its part of the last oval race of the season admirably before the IndyCar paddock jets across country again to Sonoma and the last race of 2015.