Emerging from the final round of pit stops in fifth place, Graham Rahal starred in the final 20 laps of Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, turning some of the fastest laps of the race and twice passing competitors around the outside of the Turn 5 hairpin to finish a close second in the 90-lap Verizon IndyCar Series race run at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham.
Exiting the pits more than 20 seconds behind eventual race winner Josef Newgarden, Rahal caught and passed Helio Castroneves with his first outside Turn 5 pass on Lap 79, then successfully made the same move on fellow Honda driver Ryan Hunter-Reay two laps later. Rahal then chased down former series champion Scott Dixon for second, making the pass on the final lap and taking the checkers just 2.2 seconds behind Newgarden.
Prior to the final round of pit stops, Rahal also led 17 laps of today’s race, while James Hinchcliffe also briefly led for Honda, and ran in the lead pack during the middle stages before fading to a seventh-place finish. Hunter-Reay set the fastest race lap as he fought his way to a fifth-place result after starting 18th; and his Andretti Autosport teammate Carlos Munoz made the biggest move through the field in the race, finishing sixth after starting 22nd.
After three consecutive events, the Verizon IndyCar Series now takes a weekend off before heading “home” to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the second Grand Prix of Indianapolis road race on Saturday, May 9, followed by the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 24th.
Graham Rahal (#15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda) started 8th, finished 2nd: “We knew when we made the strategy call to stay out we had to go fast in order to make up the gap. I knew I was going to have to push 110 per cent. I’ve got to say Honda did a great job for me today. It's still tough to follow, but obviously, I passed a lot of guys. This team has come a long way and I think we have proven that. Eventually, one of these days we'll win one of these things. I hope everybody enjoyed the race because we were pushing there until the last second. It was great racing with Ryan [Hunter-Reay], Will [Power] and [Scott] Dixon - he gave me room there in those last couple turns. That's pretty nice of him - not a lot of guys [would] do that.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#28 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 18th, finished 5th: “I think that [fifth] was as good as we were going to get today. We really worked hard on saving fuel – we had to have a lot of discipline there to pull it off. Some guys pitted a little later than us, they were able to go a little heavier, a little harder, so we missed out on the podium because of that. All in all, a pretty good day for the DHL Honda."
Art St. Cyr (President, Honda Performance Development) on today’s race in Long Beach: “This was an encouraging day, with a lot of strong performances from our teams, led by Graham [Rahal], Ryan [Hunter-Reay], ‘Hinch’ [James Hinchcliffe] and Carlos [Munoz]. Graham put on a driving clinic in the last 20 laps that, as a race fan myself, was just enjoyable to watch.
Congratulations to Josef [Newgarden] on a well-earned first Indy car victory. This was a good day for Honda, but we know we still have a lot of work ahead of us, and we’re looking forward to the ‘Month of May’ and the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.”