For the second consecutive event in the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series, Graham Rahal led the Honda effort Saturday at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, leading nine laps of today’s 82-lap contest on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and finishing a close second to race winner Will Power.
Starting 17th, Rahal avoided a multi-car crash in the first turn of the first lap, gaining 11 positions to finish the lap in sixth position. From there, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver stretched his opening fuel run for 23 laps until his first pit stop, moving into second as the Chevrolet-powered leaders pitted one to three laps earlier. His second stint was similarly long, as Rahal extended his run by two or more laps, improving his track position again. Following the final stop, Rahal closed to within 1.5 seconds of eventual winner Power before taking the checkers in second, where he also finished two weeks ago in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
The opening-lap crash, the only caution on the day, delayed several Honda drivers, including Ryan Hunter-Reay, Justin Wilson, James Hinchcliffe and Jack Hawksworth. After the incident, several teams went “off-sequence” with their pit stop strategies, a gamble that came close to netting top-10 results for Hinchcliffe and his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammate James Jakes.
Hinchliffe led four laps, and Jakes two, by staying on track while their competitors pitted, but the lack of a late-race caution resulted in both Honda drivers having to make pit stops for fuel in the final laps, leading to an unrepresentative 12th (Hinchcliffe) and 18th-place (Jakes) results, although Hinchcliffe did record the fastest lap of the race.
With the completion of the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, the focus of Indy car drivers and teams now turns to the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500, with activities on the famed 2.5-mile oval beginning Monday, with the first of five full days of practice for the May 24th event, and qualifying activities starting on Saturday, May 16.
Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) started 17th, finished 2nd: “I’ve got to give it to my guys. Again, I think [today’s performance] was down to the team. Everyone executed perfectly all day long, and we were able to make the moves [on track] when we had to. I gave it everything I could to catch Power, but he had a little bit too much. Sure, it feels good to be the leading Honda, but we want to win one of these things!”
James Hinchcliffe (#5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda) started 13th, finished 12th: “Obviously not the result that we wanted. We got caught up in that first-corner melee and lost the front wing. From there, we were just playing catch-up. We took a gamble on strategy to try and get back up [front], but ultimately, the yellow never came. We’ve had a couple lucky yellows this year, so we can’t be too upset. We’ll take it and move on to the next one. Great job by the boys in the pits and again, getting the car better in race pace. It was wicked quick.”
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race: “We had another great performance from Graham Rahal and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team. As a single-car team, they continue to impress us with their competitiveness, and Graham’s driving has been extraordinary. The Schmidt Peterson team took a worthwhile gamble with its pit strategy that could’ve earned strong results for both James Hinchcliffe and James Jakes. Unfortunately, they came up short, but it was encouraging to see Hinch turn the fastest race lap today. I believe we’re making progress with our road-course program, but we still have much work to do. Now we’re looking forward to running our new super speedway aero kits on the oval next week and, of course, the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.”