After knocking on the door of victory circle several times this season, Graham Rahal came through Saturday at Auto Club Speedway, winning a frantic MAVTv500 for his second career Verizon IndyCar Series win and first on an oval.
Despite starting only 19th, Rahal was confident his Honda would be strong on race day, and made his pre-race prediction come true by moving into the lead pack in the first 25 laps, and continuing to run at or near the front of the field for the rest of the day, leading 15 laps, including the final sprint to the checkers. That ended on the penultimate when fellow Honda drivers Ryan Briscoe and Ryan Hunter-Reay collided on the front stretch, sending Briscoe tumbling into the infield.
Fortunately, both drivers escaped injury in the crash, as did four other drivers, including Honda’s Takuma Sato, in three crashes that took place during the 500-mile contest.
Prior to his crash, Briscoe was one of several Honda drivers contending for the victory, leading seven laps as he continued in his substitute role for the injured James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Sato was yet another Honda front-runner, also leading 31 laps before contact from Scott Dixon sent his A.J. Foyt Racing machine into the side of Will Power, ending the race for both drivers.
Marco Andretti had another strong race, leading 31 laps en route to a third-place finish as Andretti remains as the only driver in the series to complete every race lap this season. Andretti has finished fifth or better in four of the last five races.
James Jakes moved up in the closing laps to finish seventh, his best result since standing on the podium, third, at New Orleans; while Jack Hawksworth took the checkers in 10th for A.J. Foyt Racing, his fourth top-10 finish of 2015.
The series now takes a week off before continuing its run of consecutive oval track races with the ABC Supply Company Wisconsin 250 on Sunday, July 12, at the famed Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin.
Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda) started 10th, finished 1st, 1st victory of 2015, 2nd career victory, 1st on an oval: ““You don’t know how good this feels. It’s been so long coming. It’s awesome! I knew my car was really good. It wasn’t the quickest up front, but those last couple of laps worked. I hung onto the bottom line. I’m just proud of these guys. It’s these guys right here [his crew] that make things happen. I couldn’t be more honored and thankful to have a group like this. It was a hairy race. I was going four-wide and it makes you nervous, for sure. I was racing with Kanaan, and Dixon and Power, and then Hunter-Reay a lot. So to trust those around you helps a lot. I feel like this year we’ve been so close and I feel like we deserved it before but hadn’t gotten it yet. So to get this one feels unbelievable.”
Steve Eriksen (Vice President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “There were many encouraging things to note in today’s race. We had several potential winners today, great reliability in the race, and no injuries in a couple of major crashes. It was great to see the sheer speed shown by Marco [Andretti], Takuma [Sato] and Ryan [Briscoe] and several other Honda drivers. Congratulations to Graham [Rahal] for a well-deserved win after coming so close several times already this year, and providing a great boost for our hard-working associates at HPD. Now we’re looking forward to the new challenges presented by the short ovals at Iowa and Milwaukee.”