On Sunday, the second race of IndyCar's double-header in Detroit, Graham Rahal won for the second time. For this race, Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato took pole with a new track record (which was set by Rahal for the previous race). Rahal would be starting third. He and his team did everything right to take the win, just as they had the day before. Rahal is the first driver sweep the Detroit double header races.
While most of the race was a cakewalk for Rahal, things got serious in the closing stages.
Rahal took the lead at the first round of pit stops. Sato, Rahal, and Will Power were all running nose to tail on lap 22. Sato and Power took to the pits while Rahal stayed out. Rahal took the opportunity of the clear track to pull a huge gap over the other two. When he pitted a lap later, he had a comfortable lead that grew lap after lap. Just like Saturday's race, Rahal was well in control.
But unlike Saturday, the Penske Chevrolets were having a much better run and were challenging for the win. Power was able to jump Sato in the pits as they both took their second stop at the same time.
Josef Newgarden, who went with a three-stop strategy, suddenly found himself in second place after his last stop. With 14 laps to go. Newgarden was about 14 seconds behind Rahal, and closing at about a second a lap.
Rahal was getting held up trying to lap Ryan Hunter-Reay with Newgarden getting ever closer. With just five laps to go, Hunter-Reay, finally pulled over to let Rahal by. This should have been the race. But then it happened, the only safety car of the race.
James Hinchcliffe's car stopped on track, turning a by-the-numbers race on it's head. This should have been a brief safety care period, except Spencer Pigot's turbo decided to blow under the yellow. With two cars stuck on track and just a few laps left, the powers that be red flagged the race.
This would move lapped cars, like Hunter-Reay, out of the way and to the back of the field once the race got going again. There would be two laps of a straight fight for the win.
After a lap behind the safety car, the field was set free to race with two laps to go. Rahal was leadind, followed by Newgarden, Power, and Sato. Rahal instantly pulled out an almost two second gap over Newgarden and held on for the win.
While the decision to red flag the race took away the gap that Rahal worked for, it was the right thing to. IndyCar made sure the fans got to see a race that ended with racing, rather than under a yellow flag. It's not always possible to do this when a safety car comes out so close to the end, but kudos to IndyCar for making it happen. It was good for the fans. It was good for the drivers. It was good for IndyCar.