GRAHAM RAHAL WINS FIFTH ATLANTIC RACE AND EXTENDS MI-JACK CONQUEST RACING'S PODIUM STREAK TO NINE Montreal, Quebec, August 28, 2006 -- He might have missed the first day of high school after rain postponed the Champ Car Grand Prix de Montreal ...
GRAHAM RAHAL WINS FIFTH ATLANTIC RACE AND EXTENDS MI-JACK CONQUEST RACING'S PODIUM STREAK TO NINE
Montreal, Quebec, August 28, 2006 -- He might have missed the first day of high school after rain postponed the Champ Car Grand Prix de Montreal Atlantic Race to today, but Mi-Jack Conquest Racing's Graham Rahal gave a lesson of his own on the wet Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve as he fought off his closest Championship rival, Simon Pagenaud, in the closing laps of an exciting race to capture his Series leading fifth victory this season by only .073 of-a-second, the closest finish in years in the Series. Mi-Jack Conquest's Ryan Lewis was also having a good race but gearbox problems ended his day and he had to settle for 24th. Since their first win in Monterrey, Mexico back in May, the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Atlantic Team has finished on the podium in the last nine races, beating Hoover Orsi's record of eight-straight in 2001.
A lot was at stake for the 17-year-old Rahal from New Albany, Ohio as he came into the race 17 points behind Series' leader Simon Pagenaud with only two races left. Rahal who was starting third behind James Hinchcliffe and Pagenaud took advantage of a lap 6 battle between the two front-runners to take the lead. He first passed Hinchcliffe, who had just lost the lead, coming out of the hairpin and went head to head with Pagenaud down the stretch and entered the last chicane ahead of the Team Australia driver. Rahal stretched his lead up to nearly a second and a half but with the track drying, Frenchman Pagenaud cut the American's lead to less than a tenth of second with one lap to go. Pagenaud dove beside the #18 Mi-Jack Conquest Gehl Company car as they were heading toward the finish line but it was Rahal that came out on top in the heart-stopping finish. Rahal remains in second place in the Championship standings only 12 points behind heading to the season finale in Elkhart Lake September 22-24
"I knew today that the fastest driver was not going to win the race. Whoever is pushing the hardest usually encounters some problems. I knew that we had to keep the car on the track until the end. When I was following Simon (Pagenaud) and James (Hinchcliffe), we all allowed equal distances for those first few laps. James (Hinchcliffe) went off and opened the door for Simon (Pagenaud). Once I came out of the hairpin, I saw my opportunity. I knew I was good out of there and could really power down. On the straightaway, I was much quicker than anybody else. I drove around Simon (Pagenaud) because he was on the outside and I just took advantage of it," said Rahal. "It was a good race. We knew that we would come here and give it our all. We all kind of wanted it to rain, to see what would happen, if it would make interesting. I'm amazed it was a clean race with no yellows, but I was happy that I could maintain the lead.
Starting from the back of the field, Ryan Lewis had his work cut out for him today if he wanted to make it to the front. The 22-year-old moved up a few positions at the start and had made it all the way up to fifteenth in just eight laps. However, Lewis lost his front wing as he was making his way through the field and he then had to battle gearbox problems. Nevertheless, he stayed on track and kept on fighting, but on lap 20 his day ended when the gearbox completely let go.
"I was happy this morning when I saw the wet conditions. I really enjoy driving in the rain and I thought I could take advantage of that to move up the field and get to the front," explained Lewis. "I started hearing funny noises on the car and then realized it was the gearbox. I tried to keep going as long as I could but it completely let go and it ended my race. We will have to do better in Road America and end the season on a high note."
With a Championship on the line, the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Atlantic Team is looking forward to disputing the final race of the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Season in less than a month in Elkhart Lake.
-credit: mi-jack conquest racing