Rahal Dominates At Belle Isle

Graham Rahal soars through Turn 11 during Race 2 of the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.Photo by Chris Owens.

Graham Rahal soars through Turn 11 during Race 2 of the 2017 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
Photo by Chris Owens.

(DETROIT, MI) – (Sunday, June 4, 2017) – Graham Rahal completed a near-perfect Verizon IndyCar Series weekend with another dominating performance Sunday to finish off a sweep of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix doubleheader.

Rahal, in the No. 15 SoldierStrong/TurnsForTroops.com Honda, survived a two-lap dash to the checkered flag, holding off Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden by 1.1772 seconds to back up his victory from Saturday on the Raceway at Belle Isle Park’s temporary street course.

The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver becomes the first driver to sweep a Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader weekend since Scott Dixon won both races on the streets of Toronto in 2013.

“All around just a spectacular weekend for us,” said Rahal, whose Sunday win was the sixth of his 11-year Indy car career and the 25th for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

With the two triumphs, Rahal vaulted nine spots in the championship standings, to sixth place after eight of 17 races. The 28 year-old Ohioan won from the third starting position and becomes the first driver to win two Verizon IndyCar Series races this season.

“I could run a really strong pace, better than most guys, while saving a ton of fuel,” Rahal said. “That’s why I say, these weekends, they just don’t happen that often. We’re the first one to win the double (at Belle Isle). It feels great. Any day you can beat a Penske driver, it means a lot.”

Rahal led 41 of the 70 laps on the 2.35-mile, 14-turn circuit that has hosted 24 Indy car races since 1992. The race ran caution-free until James Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda stopped on course on Lap 66. As the remaining cars packed up behind the pace car, Spencer Pigot’s No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet pulled off with smoke trailing from the rear.

IndyCar officials red-flagged the race, bringing all cars to a stop in the pits at the conclusion of Lap 67 to give track workers time to clean up both incident areas. Once engines were restarted, the green flag waved at the end of Lap 68 and Rahal pulled away from Newgarden, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet.

“I think we were all just trying to get to the end there,” said Newgarden, who started 13th but took advantage of a three-pit-stop strategy to move forward. “It was two (laps) to go and we had marbles all over the tires. In that type of situation, there’s not much you can do, unfortunately. I was hoping Graham was going to make a big mistake because then I would try and capitalize.”

Will Power finished third in the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet to give team owner and Belle Isle race promoter Roger Penske two drivers on the podium. Pole sitter and reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato, who set a track record in winning the P1 Award in morning qualifying, led 22 laps, but finished fourth in the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda.

Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix officials estimated the event’s three-day attendance at 100,000, up about 5,000 from 2016.

The IndyCar Series returns to Texas Motor Speedway for the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 on June 10, where Rahal is the defending champion.

Back In Hinchtown

After qualifying 5th for the 2nd race at Belle Isle this weekend, Canadian James Hinchcliffe finished 20th when he left the race in the 65th lap with mechanical issues. Hinchcliffe podiumed in 3rd place in race 1 on Saturday.

“Obviously not the end of the day we wanted. The race started out OK, maintained position, and then unfortunately when we were committing to that three-stop strategy, I sped from the pits. That’s on me, my fault, which put us to the back again – second day in a row,” said Oakville’s Hinchcliffe. “We were up there with a couple laps to go and unfortunately had a motor go on us. It’s tough to go out that late in the race, especially when we worked so hard to come back up and right the mistake I made earlier in the day. It just showed that we’ve got the pace, and big thanks to everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for all the hard work this doubleheader weekend – at least Mikhail (Aleshin) had a solid finish for us. We’ll move on to Texas where we were quick last year and hopefully we can repeat that again this year.”

Scott Dixon screams into turn 1 during practice at the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle in Detroit on 2 June 2017. Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Scott Dixon screams into turn 1 during practice at the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle in Detroit on 2 June 2017. Dixon leads the IndyCar Series points standings after 8 races.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

IndyCar Series Point Standings

  • Dixon 303,
  • Castroneves 295,
  • Sato 292,
  • Pagenaud 278,
  • Newgarden 259,
  • Rahal 251,
  • Rossi 246,
  • Power 233,
  • Kanaan 223,
  • Hinchcliffe 216
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