Rahal frustrated but proud of Barber performance

Graham Rahal was left pondering what might have been, after a brave stab at passing Team Penske’s dominant Simon Pagenaud for the lead at Barber Motorsports Park paid off only temporarily.

Rahal frustrated but proud of Barber performance
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Podium: winner Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske Chevrolet, second place Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, third place Josef Newgarden, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda
Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Their coming together nine laps from the end of the 90-lap race broke elements of the left front wing on the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda, and although it also sent Pagenaud into the gravel, the Penske-Chevy regained the track and five laps later regained the lead from the crippled RLLR car.

Rahal told Motorsport.com: “It was an opportunity I had to take and who knows how often those opportunities will come around? Particularly once Simon blocked me, I felt even more of a reason to shove my nose in there! I’m not a guy who’s OK with being pushed around. You push me, I’ll push back.

“You look at the overhead view and you’ll see he diagonals into the corner way before you’d normally do… and I braked and moved right to try and avoid him which is why only my wing caught him. If I’d stayed on the gas and braked where I normally do and was still halfway alongside him, it’s hard to tell what would have happened.

“Anyway, I’d say it was a racing incident, so I’m frustrated with myself. We let that one slip, because for sure we should have won that race.”

Tagging Hawksworth

Following the stewards’ decision not to penalize him, Rahal believes he could have held onto the lead despite Pagenaud coming back at him. He says flicking off his front wing endplate on Jack Hawksworth’s AJ Foyt Racing-Honda as he pulled out to lap him was what allowed the Penske driver back in front, and that incident was a result of misunderstanding of how Hawksworth would react.

He said: “When Hawksworth slowed up at the apex of Turn 5, he was on the outside so I dived in because I could see him starting to slow on the entry which isn’t the best place to do it. Let someone by before the corner, not when you’re there.

“So I went to the inside of him, Pagenaud went to the outside of him but as we were coming out of the corner, he then went hard left across the track. Caught me completely off guard.

“Honestly, my mistake though. So I’m pissed.

“With that broken wing, it was hard to keep the car on the surface afterwards, stabbing on the throttle to get weight transfer to make it turn. Without the wing falling apart, we’d have won.”  

History with Pagenaud

Rahal admitted that his long history of racing Pagenaud had added some edge to their fight, and made it all the harder to lose to him.

He said: “Pagenaud and I go all the way back to Formula Atlantic 10 years ago, so it’s a personal thing for me. I don’t like losing battles, I feel like I can beat him and I think that’s the first battle I’ve ever lost to him, so that bothers me.

“But we’ll keep fighting hard.”

Rahal went on to praise his team and said they deserve more recognition than they get.

He said: “I'm so proud of my guys. What people don’t praise enough is that we’re a one-car team with no windtunnel budget. We’ve maybe done a day or two of shaker-rig testing in the last three years.

"And yet we’re competing with those guys who have their own windtunnel, who’ve got their own damper program…

“So my guys are studs to get it as close as they get it. It’s freaking impressive.” 

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