Rahal dominates in Detroit for first win of 2017

Graham Rahal dominated race one in Detroit - Credit: Bret Kelley / IndyCar

Graham Rahal converted his first pole position in eight years into a fifth career Verizon IndyCar Series victory as he dominated the first race of the double-header in Detroit on Saturday.

Using a two-stop strategy to perfection, Rahal took his #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing machine to victory lane, with his race made much easier when Helio Castroneves switched to a three-stop strategy and saw a caution period ruin his chances of victory, with the Brazilian being forced to settle for seventh as a result.

Rahal’s closest challenger towards the end of the race was Scott Dixon, who performed remarkably in the #9 Chip Ganassi Racing machine despite racing with a painful left ankle, caused by his violent crash during last weekend’s Indianapolis 500.

Despite the pain, the New Zealander finished 6.1474 seconds down, and even he did not have an answer to the consistently strong pace of Rahal, but he does take over the lead of the championship standings with the result.

Completing the podium was James Hinchcliffe, despite the Canadian finding himself facing the wrong way and stalled at the exit of turn one on the opening lap. The Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver was lucky to see caution flags fly, which prevented him from losing a lap, and after pitting for new tyres at the end of lap two when the pits opened, he drove superbly to climb up the order.

Josef Newgarden was the leading Team Penske and Chevrolet finisher in fourth, and he was the best of those to attempt a three-stop strategy, and he made a good move on Alexander Rossi in the closing stages, but despite catching Hinchcliffe, he could not find a way through.

Rossi had run as high as second for Andretti Herta Autosport but fell away in the closing stages to fifth, while Mikhail Aleshin had his best finish of the season so far in sixth for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport ahead of Castroneves, while Takuma Sato, Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot completed the top ten.

It was a generally disappointing day for Team Penske, with reigning series champion Simon Pagenaud and Will Power finishing in sixteenth and eighteenth respectively, while Dale Coyne Racing’s debutant Esteban Gutierrez finished a lapped nineteenth.

Aside from the first lap caution for Hinchcliffe’s spin, the safety car was also needed when Charlie Kimball spun whilst attempting to avoid Conor Daly’s car, which had suffered a mechanical issue and ground to a halt. This caution period virtually ended Castroneves’ chance of victory, and gave Rahal the opportunity to dominate.

Though to be fair, no one was going to deny Rahal. The question is, can he repeat the feat in Sunday’s second race when everyone get to do it all over again?

Scott Dixon finished second in Detroit despite struggling with a left ankle injury – Credit: Chris Jones / IndyCar

Belle Isle Race 1 Result

115Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:35:48.7028s
29Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing+6.1474s
35James HinchcliffeCANSchmidt Peterson Motorsports+9.1688s
42Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske+10.0930s
598Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Herta Autosport+25.5556s
67Mikhail AleshinRUSSchmidt Peterson Motorsports+31.3644s
73Helio CastronevesBRZTeam Penske+33.1052s
826Takuma SatoJAPAndretti Autosport+47.4696s
919Ed JonesUAEDale Coyne Racing+53.6531s
1020Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing+54.0726s
118Max ChiltonGBRChip Ganassi Racing+55.2547s
1227Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Autosport+58.3402s
1328Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport+59.1348s
1414Carlos MunozCOLAJ Foyt Enterprises+1:00.7310s
1510Tony KanaanBRZChip Ganassi Racing+1:01.9596s
161Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske+1:02.1492s
1721JR HildebrandUSAEd Carpenter Racing+1:06.0717s
1812Will PowerAUSTeam Penske+1 Lap
1918Esteban GutierrezMEXDale Coyne Racing+1 Lap
2016Oriol ServiaESPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing+1 Lap
2183Charlie KimballUSAChip Ganassi Racing+1 Lap
RET4Conor DalyUSAAJ Foyt EnterprisesRetired