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?
Belle Isle Race 1 Result
|1||15||Graham Rahal||USA||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||1:35:48.7028s|
|2||9||Scott Dixon||NZL||Chip Ganassi Racing||+6.1474s|
|3||5||James Hinchcliffe||CAN||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||+9.1688s|
|4||2||Josef Newgarden||USA||Team Penske||+10.0930s|
|5||98||Alexander Rossi||USA||Andretti Herta Autosport||+25.5556s|
|6||7||Mikhail Aleshin||RUS||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||+31.3644s|
|7||3||Helio Castroneves||BRZ||Team Penske||+33.1052s|
|8||26||Takuma Sato||JAP||Andretti Autosport||+47.4696s|
|9||19||Ed Jones||UAE||Dale Coyne Racing||+53.6531s|
|10||20||Spencer Pigot||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+54.0726s|
|11||8||Max Chilton||GBR||Chip Ganassi Racing||+55.2547s|
|12||27||Marco Andretti||USA||Andretti Autosport||+58.3402s|
|13||28||Ryan Hunter-Reay||USA||Andretti Autosport||+59.1348s|
|14||14||Carlos Munoz||COL||AJ Foyt Enterprises||+1:00.7310s|
|15||10||Tony Kanaan||BRZ||Chip Ganassi Racing||+1:01.9596s|
|16||1||Simon Pagenaud||FRA||Team Penske||+1:02.1492s|
|17||21||JR Hildebrand||USA||Ed Carpenter Racing||+1:06.0717s|
|18||12||Will Power||AUS||Team Penske||+1 Lap|
|19||18||Esteban Gutierrez||MEX||Dale Coyne Racing||+1 Lap|
|20||16||Oriol Servia||ESP||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing||+1 Lap|
|21||83||Charlie Kimball||USA||Chip Ganassi Racing||+1 Lap|
|RET||4||Conor Daly||USA||AJ Foyt Enterprises||Retired|