Graham Rahal Wins The First Of IndyCar’s Two Detroit Races
Will Rahal be able to sweep the weekend?
Only six days after the Indy 500, IndyCar is racing again. This weekend, they hold a double-header in Detroit, with races on Saturday and Sunday. Graham Rahal took the victory after starting from pole in Saturday's race. He drove a textbook race with the team calling a perfect pit stop strategy.
It may have unfolded differently as Helio Castroneves originally held pole, but had his fastest lap taken away from him. Race officials said that he didn't slow down through a yellow flag during qualifying. This bumped Rahal up to P1, but Castroneves' second fastest lap was good enough for him to still start on the front row.
At the start, Rahal held off Castroneves through the first corners, which was all that he needed to do. James Hinchcliffe lost the back end of his car in turn one, causing him to spin-out in turn two. His stalled car brought out the safety car, which saved him from going down a lap. He was able to get going, but had now dropped from fifth to last.
Castroneves opted for an early pit stop soon after the race went green again. This would put him on a three stop strategy, with Rahal on a two-stopper. Whether or not Castroneves would have still gone with three stops had they started from pole isn't known, but it wouldn't have mattered.
Rahal had the speed. His car was set up to handle the countless bumps around Belle Isle. The race was his from start to finish. Until the closing laps, he hadn't needed to used any of his push-to-pass boost. When he did use it, it was only to keep up the five second gap he had over second place.
The race was surprisingly clean, with only two short cautions. This certainly helped Rahal, but his team timed his pit stops perfectly. This kept him out front, or in the effective lead, after his green flag stops. Rahal didn't put a wheel wrong all race, which is what ultimately earned him the much needed win.
Just six days after being involved in one the most spectacular and horrific looking wrecks you'll ever see, Scott Dixon started in sixth place and finished in second. Even with the minor injury to his left ankle, he was able to keep pace and finish on the podium.
Hinchcliffe managed to recover after his first lap spin, making his way from last to third.
Castroneves ended up 7th, his pit strategy not working out as planned. Castroneves and his fellow Team Penske runners all seemed a little off the pace. Josef Newgarden did quietly work his way up to fourth, but Simon Pagenaud and Will Power finished 16th and 18th, respectively. Power was even lapped by Rahal towards the end race.
Esteban Gutierrez, who is filling in for Sebastien Bourdais, finished 19th. Given that he first drove an IndyCar yesterday, and has never driven the physically demanding Detroit track, he wasn't expected to do more than bring the car home in one piece.
As for his future with the team, Dale Coyne Racing would like to have Gutierrez on board for the remainder of the races before Bourdais potentially returns in September at the season finale. The biggest road block is that Gutierrez has never raced on an oval track, and next weekend's race is at the daunting Texas Motor Speedway. The team is trying to get a waiver from IndyCar to have Gutierrez test at the track before the race. A decision will be made soon as the race is just a week away.
Before moving on to Texas, IndyCar still has Sunday's second race in Detroit to tackle. Rain is expected at some point around the start of the race. Will Rahal be able to take back to back wins this weekend? Was anyone holding back today to save their car for Sunday? The gloves come off Sunday at 3:45pm ET for the second round in Detroit. Television coverage starts at 3:30pm ET on ABC.
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