Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti led the way for Honda Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Starting 17th, Rahal gained ground steadily throughout the first third of the 200-lap contest, reaching the top 10 on Lap 68. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver continued to battle his way forward, finally moving to fifth in the closing laps as the top Honda finisher. Starting on the third row of the grid, eighth, Andretti struggled early with handling issues, but was able to improve the car through changes at successive pit stops, then gained positions with aggressive re-starts after cautions late in the race to finish sixth.
After featuring in the first 60 laps, Justin Wilson was forced to make on unscheduled pit stop due to a vibration, going a lap down to the leaders. A strong recovery drive and a pit strategy gamble got Wilson back on the lead lap, and briefly in the lead, but he was forced to pit for fuel with just two laps remaining and finished 21st. His Andretti Autosport teammate, Carlos Munoz, also ran in the top 10, but received a drive-through penalty for speeding in pit lane mid-race. Afterwards, his team also went “off-sequence” in it’s pit strategy, but like Wilson needed a final splash of fuel to make the finish, dropping him to 20th at the checkers.
Gabby Chaves skidded into one of his Bryan Herta Autosport crew during the first round of pit stops, but both he and the team recovered to finish 16th, the top rookie in the field.
Ryan Briscoe, substituting for the injured James Hinchcliffe in the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, made the largest start-to-finish position gain in today’s 200-lap event, finishing 12th after starting 31st. Hinchcliffe, who sustained leg and pelvis injuries when suspension failure resulted in a 125-G Turn 3 crash on Monday, continues to be treated at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, but is expected to make a full recovery.
IndyCar Series teams and drivers now prepare for a hectic schedule of four races over the next three weeks, starting with next weekend’s “Dual at Detroit” May 30-31, a double-header event with races both Saturday and Sunday on the Belle Isle street circuit in Michigan.
Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) started 17th, finished 5th at the Indianapolis 500: “I’m proud of this team. We pushed as hard as we could. I keep saying to the guys that the biggest thing is to keep coming home in the points. If we can be the top finishing Honda and gain some points, then we’ve had a successful day. Obviously the three guys we are trying to keep up with in the championship all finished ahead of us, but still I feel very good about it. I’m very proud this organization for turning our results around. Coming off the last two years here, I can’t tell you how good this feels. With 15 laps to go, to have to charge up from ninth was pretty tricky. Overall, I thought the racing was pretty good.”
Art St. Cyr (president, Honda Performance Development) on today’s Indianapolis 500: “Today’s race clearly demonstrated the job we have ahead of us. But we gained a lot of information during the month here, and now have definitive goals we need to achieve in order to return Honda to the front of the field. Congratulations to Graham [Rahal] and Marco [Andretti], who once again did a great job for us, fighting hard and running competitively throughout the 200 laps.”