Graham Rahal Finishes 12th in #30 Quick Trim/RLR Special at Indianapolis 500
INDIANAPOLIS - In making it through 200 laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to complete the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in his career, Graham Rahal saw the race from numerous vantage points while piloting the #30 Quick Trim/RLR Special to a career-best Indy 500 12th-place finish.
The 21-year-old from New Albany, Ohio ran up front, dropped to the back, clawed his way to the front again, got sent back by a penalty, stormed back to the front with strong driving, quick pit service and shrewd strategy, and then just missed a top-10 finish when a last-lap crash enabled cars that needed fuel to complete the race distance.
"We went backward, forward, backward, forward again, that was our day. That 30 laps we ran in front of Dario to avoid being lapped, we were flying," Rahal said. "The Quick Trim/RLR guys did a great job in the pits, the team really pulled together today. It's really frustrating to have that happen here in this race. But I thought we had a really great car today, had great pit stops and when we up front, we were really fast."
Rahal started seventh in his third Indy 500, but dropped back in the pack early when his car needed service during an early-race caution. Restarting 26th, Rahal gained seven spots back on the track before his next pit stop and continued to gain ground en route to his next stop on Lap 64 when his Rahal Letterman Racing team earned him eight spots, promoting him to eighth.
But Rahal then found himself on the wrong end of a questionable officiating decision 10 laps later, when he was blackflagged for blocking on Dan Wheldon. But as egregious as the call was, it set the stage for a stint that put the team back in the race. Rahal came out of the pits just ahead of eventual race winner Dario Franchitti and held the Scotsman off for nearly 30 laps to avoid falling a lap down.
After Rahal pitted for fuel, his team got a caution for Vitor Meira's crash that allowed him to get back on the same pit strategy as the leaders and put the team back in the race for the lead. His pit stop on Lap 156 dropped him back to 18th, as he and Helio Castroneves pitted simultaneously, but when the rest of the field pitted for Sebastian Saavedra's wreck, Rahal found himself in fourth place. He battled fiercely with Castroneves for third but had to stop for a splash of fuel with eight laps to go, dropping him back to 18th. Rahal went back to work over the final laps as the rest of the field started to drop off as their fuel ran out, but a last-lap crash with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Mike Conway blunted his charge, leaving Rahal to finish 12th.
"I thought Graham did a hell of a job today. A bogus penalty really hurt us, I don't think Graham did anything that others drivers weren't doing, but we got a penalty," said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. "To lead Dario like he did for so long really showed how strong the car was. I think he really got everything he could out of the car."
"What a day for the kid! You can't ask for anything else," said team co-owner David Letterman. "I've never seen our team have a better drive here. Even the year we won the race, I thought the kid drove a better race today. Graham made a heroic effort and I am really, really proud to be a part of this team."