Rahal Owns the Day with Pole, Win at Belle Isle
DETROIT - Just hours after scoring his third career pole with a new track record lap, Graham Rahal took the point today and dominated en route to victory in Dual 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. It is Rahal's fifth career Indy car win and first since Texas last year.
"Feels awesome," said Rahal, whose 55 laps led on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park temporary street course is the most in a race in his 11-year career. "Everything went according to plan today. Yesterday, one of my comments was that I felt if I could qualify up front, I could dominate this race. I got a lot of heat by the other drivers for that comment, but I think we did it."
Rahal, in the No. 15 SoldierStrong / TurnsforTroops.com Honda, set the track record with a lap of 1 minute, 13.9681 seconds (114.374 mph) in qualifying. He led all but 15 laps on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn circuit, opting for a two-stop strategy that saw him surrender the lead only as pit stops cycled through.
Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon (No. 9 Camping World Honda) followed Rahal across the line, 6.1474 seconds behind. Dixon, the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion, takes a two-point lead in the championship standings into Sunday's second Belle Isle over Helio Castroneves, who finished seventh today in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.
Ed Jones"It was a tough race no matter what. Physically for me, it was tougher than normal," said Dixon, who drove despite a sore left ankle sustained in his crash May 28 in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Penngrade Motor Oil. "I think I was favoring a lot of things, but just so proud of the whole Camping World crew. They did an amazing job, the car was fast. I probably couldn't get the most out of it, but we were kind of there. But it's great for points."
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' James Hinchcliffe (No. 5 Arrow Honda) recovered from a spin on the opening lap to finish third, his 13th career podium finish and 25th top-five.
"Yeah, it's all about thinking on your feet in the Verizon IndyCar Series. We had to do that," said Hinchcliffe of his first lap incident, which did not damage his car, but sent him to the back of the field. "There are kind of two main strategies coming into (today). One was going to be kind of reserved for the top half of the grid. The other for the back."
Hinchcliffe now sits eighth in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings, just one point behind Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ed Jones (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda), who finished ninth today.
"You know," Hinchcliffe said, "I've been around this series long enough now to know an incident in turn one doesn't necessarily have to ruin your day. Knowing there was a strategy that kind of favored guys getting off (Firestone red alternate tires) who were at the back early. I immediately, as soon as we were back (under power), knew we were going to be switching to that. We kind of had a backup plan in that sense. I was just lucky that the car was good enough and we were able to make some passes on track, make some spaces up in pit lane."
Josef Newgarden (No. 2 hum by Verizon Chevrolet) led the way for Team Penske with a fourth-place finish, with Alexander Rossi (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda) rounding out the top five. It marks the fourth time this season four different teams have been represented across the top four, and the first time in 2017 that five teams made up the top five in a single race.
"It was a pretty good day for us, pretty good points," said Newgarden, who is now sixth in points, two behind Rossi. "We obviously want a little bit more and I think we had more in the hum by Verizon Chevy. Fourth (place) is what we could get with the yellows and the way they played out today, but it's still a great run for us."
Rahal's win is the 24th in the history of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Graham's fourth since joining the team his father co-owns in 2013.
"It's always wonderful to see your son win or see your team win, frankly," said Bobby Rahal, who also won on the streets of Belle Isle in 1992, the first Indy car race at the circuit. "But today, to lead 55 out of 70 laps, that's pretty special."
After their first two seasons together yielded zero wins and just four top-fives, today's result marks the third consecutive season Graham has won at least one race with RLL.
"I don't think he could've driven any better," said the proud father. "I don't think a statement could've been made any stronger. This was our race."
"I can't tell you how good it feels," added Graham. "I mean it's Day 1 of two. We've got tomorrow to do, but trust me, today feels extremely rewarding."
The second race of the weekend takes place Sunday, preceded by qualifying at 10:45 a.m. ET. (streamed live on RaceControl.IndyCar.com). Race coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. on ABC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
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