• Battles Will Power for victory in another close IndyCar finish
• Strong runs for Wilson, Hinchcliffe
• Rookies Hawksworth, Munoz and Huertas impress
In his best performance of 2014, third-generation racer Graham Rahal fought eventual race winner Will Power for the final 20 laps of Saturday’s opening race of the “Dual in Detroit” Verizon IndyCar Series doubleheader weekend, making a last-lap effort that came up just 33 hundredths of a second short at the checkers.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team, headed by Graham’s father, Bobby Rahal, made the right calls throughout the 70-lap contest, keeping its driver at or near the front of the field in a race that featured nearly a half-dozen different pit strategies among the 22 contestants. When the green flag waved for the final time on Lap 60, Rahal was in third place, behind Power and Ryan Briscoe. After dispatching Briscoe on Lap 62, Rahal closed down on Power and made several runs at the leader, but came up short in his efforts to snatch the victory.
Just behind the leaders, Justin Wilson combined excellent Honda fuel mileage with equally clever pit calls from his Dale Coyne Racing team to finish fourth, his best result of 2014. James Hinchcliffe ran in the lead group for the first half of the race, but the timing of the race’s four cautions dropped him to an unrepresentative sixth. Rookie Jack Hawksworth also starred, running second to early leader Helio Castroneves until a broken brake disc dropped him off the lead lap; while fellow rookies Carlos Munoz and Carlos Huertas finished seventh and eighth, respectively – the third top-10 result for Munoz this year and a career-best for Huertas.
Graham Rahal (#15 National Guard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda) started 9th, finished 2nd, best result of 2014: “I thought I was going to finally get the monkey off my back [and win] today. I knew I had a car that was as quick as [Will Power]. I knew I had one opportunity and that was on the restart. He blocked me, which I would have done too, so I don’t blame him. I said after Indy that this team was made up of champions and that it was going to come in time. We are going to win. I can promise you that. I was focused on the task at hand and I knew I was one of the few guys who could drive by a lot of people today. So when I saw myself in 13th place after a bad run on the reds [alternate tires], I thought, ‘This isn’t over. I can still pass these guys.’ And sure enough we went to the front. This is where our season started, right here, today.”
Justin Wilson (#19 Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda) started 19th, finished 4th: “To be totally honest, I had no idea what was going on [in terms of strategy] out there today! I was just driving as fast as I could and pitting when I was told, and it all worked out really well for us. All thanks to Mike [Cannon, engineer] and the team, they did a great job with both the strategy and the pit stops. The track was getting seriously fast late in the race, so I think tomorrow may be another crazy race. It’s Detroit; anything can happen!”
Mark Crawford (IndyCar Project Leader, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “It was close. We managed to move a bunch of cars to the front of the field today with some clever pit strategy and excellent Honda fuel mileage, but fell just short of victory. It was good to see Graham Rahal turn things around today after a tough start to the season, and we saw timely, strong performances from Justin Wilson and James Hinchcliffe, and that also was encouraging. Now we get to do it all again tomorrow, we just have to finish one position higher!”