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Rahal on GP Indy: “One of the better drives I’ve ever had”

Graham Rahal says his recovery from the back of the pack to finish fifth in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis with a hugely ambitious fuel strategy was one that left him “shocked.”

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

Contact at Turn 1 between Conor Daly and Simon Pagenaud sent Daly into Rahal’s car, obliging the Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda driver to pit for hasty repairs to his right-rear bodywork.

Even though the field went under caution for the AMR Safety team to retrieve Conor Daly’s stranded Ed Carpenter Racing machine, pitting dropped Rahal – who had qualified 11th – to the back of the field. Then, after pitting for a second time to top up with fuel and go off strategy, he had not caught up with the pack by the time the green flag waved for the restart.

Despite this deficit, which was never alleviated by fate since there were no more caution periods, and some skepticism over the fuel consumption number he’d have to reach to switch to a two ‘regular’-stop strategy, Rahal made it work. Pitting only on Lap 30 and Lap 58 of the 85-lap race, when his primary opposition ran three regular stops, he went on to finish fifth, ahead of Pagenaud.

“Oh boy was that an exciting one,” said Rahal afterward. “The start I need to look at it. I thought I was giving enough room but obviously came in contact with Conor there.

“Our boys, we're going to nickname this race ‘Chicken Salad’ because to take that green flag 20-plus seconds behind [the field] and be able to work our way up with a good car, good pace, good fuel saving – definitely one of the better drives I've ever had.

“I’m proud of these guys to get another top five. When you start that far behind it's remarkable. It’s a good run for Fifth Third Bank, everybody in this organization, Honda with the fuel mileage… It’s all just excellent stuff.

“I’m super happy with how this ended up. I’ve got to say I’m shocked, but it was definitely a good run for us.
“[After the start], we had a pretty beat up car for the remainder of the race. The right rear was pretty beat up. But that happened so easily, I'm not really sure how it falls apart like that with so little contact, but either way the biggest thing is just to keep the guys’ heads together and keep mine.

“Obviously that restart wasn't ideal – we topped up on fuel and restarted 20 seconds behind.  Imagine if we had restarted in the back of the pack and didn't have to make up the 20 seconds.

“But at the same time it was good because by the time I caught Montoya he had to pit. By the time I got to some of those guys in the sequence, they were having to pit so I could just keep going so the momentum just kept rolling but it was definitely a good day.”

With his third consecutive top-five finish, Rahal now lies fifth in the championship, behind only Scott Dixon, Alex Palou, Josef Newgarden and Pato O’Ward.

 

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