Rahal dominates Detroit GP Race 2 for sweep

Graham Rahal sweeps the doubleheader in Detroit
Graham Rahal sweeps the doubleheader in Detroit. Note all the marbles making passing near impossible

In a race that ran caution free for most of the race, a late red flag for 2 blown engines provided fans with a 2-lap dash for cash. But the results were the same as if the race would've ended in caution — Graham Rahal dominated the second round of the 2017 Detroit Grand Prix. However, unlike yesterday, Penske showed their road course strength as Josef Newgarden and Will Power finished second and third respectively, and Simon Pagenaud in fifth. Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato finished 4th. Esteban Gutierrez finished 14th.

Don't get me wrong — I think that Graham Rahal is a nice guy. Pretty wife, always nice to me. But he really stunk up the entire IndyCar weekend, leading 55 laps out of 70 yesterday and 41 out of 70 today. Rahal's car was fast off of the truck, and in the words of father Bobby Rahal, "It was a dream weekend." Two days ago weather forecasts were for near-certain rain, but that didn't show up — not that it mattered.

The race started with Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the front row, and Sato set sail for the first 26 laps in the lead. Would-be contenders Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves killed their chances to win on lap 10 with a small collision that took off Hunter-Reay's front wing and flattened Castroneves' rear tire. Hunter-Reay finished 17th, and Castroneves 9th.

But that contact didn't cause a caution, and green flag stops were made starting early on for back markers looking to shed the alternate "Red" tires. Like yesterday, most teams — which means, everyone but Rahal and maybe Rossi — couldn't make the reds run fast for more than a few laps. The rules requires everyone to run both sets of tires for a minimum of 2 laps, and that's probably when the pit stops started. But that committed the early pitters to a 3-stop race, something they couldn't win w/o a caution.

Rahal took the lead on lap 23 when Sato pitted, holding it for 2 laps until Rahal himself pitted. Josef Newgarden — who pitted somewhat early on lap 20 — ran strong all day, but relinquished the lead on lap 30 back to Rahal when Newgarden pitted. By lap 42, Rahal had a 13+ second lead over second place, seemingly on cruise control, a repeat of yesterday's butt-kicking. By the time Rahal pitted on lap 47, Rahal had a 17 second lead.

At that point, Josef Newgarden lead for 2 laps, but his 7-second lead over Rahal wasn't enough to keep the lead while he pitted, handing the lead back to Rahal on lap 50. By lap 52, Rahal had an 18+ second lead on second-place Newgarden. The only things that could stop the Rahal express, then, were back-markers and a late caution.

Fortunately for those who didn't desire to cure insomnia by watching this race, both happened. Rahal started to catch backmarkers, including Ryan Hunter-Reay who was battling with Marco Andretti. Both of course moved over in due course, but by then Rahal's lead was a mere 6-7 seconds. In all, 5 cars were lapped in the heat of battle today out of 22.

On lap 62, Ed Jones — who had been running a solid race — went off the course into the runoff area and stalled his car. The safety crew tried to restart him with only a local yellow, but the car wouldn't refire. While there was still no caution for the day yet, it did end Ed's pretty good run, and he finished last on the day.

Doing better that Ed Jones was team mate Esteban Gutierrez, who peeked into the top 10 at times, and finished a very respectable 14th. He lost some positions in the afore-mentioned red flag restart, but at the end of the day, Coyne had 2 cars that were in one piece, and rookies who showed lots of promise.

On lap 65, the caution-free day came to an end. First of all, James Hinchliffe's car quit coming past the start finish line. Hinch indicated to the crew that he thought it was an electrical issue, but the car had to be lifted off of the track with a diaper under it to contain leaks. He finished 20th. Just as the caution flag flew, Spencer Pigot's car covered the track with smoke as its engine gave way. Jokes were made about fogging for mosquitoes — something badly needed in this part of the world — but it was no joke for Ed Carpenter's team. His "aces" posted a very disappointing 21st (Pigot) and 18th (JR Hildebran) for the day.

The race was red-flagged with 3 laps to go. The lapped cars were moved to the back of the field, and the track cleaned. The thing went green again 17 or so minutes later, with 2 laps to go — but it barely made any difference. Rahal still had over a minute of Push to Pass left for the race, twice as much as Newgarden, and the pack mostly played follow the leader for the remaining first 2 laps.

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Coyne folks miss Sebastien Bourdais, and Sebastian still participates in team meetings via phone from his hospital room. However, it's clear to most that the team has two very talented rookies, and that when they get the hang of things like ovals and street courses, they've got some winners.

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Kudos to the broadcast team here, whose close-circuit cameras picked up the local wildlife on the island. They found a beaver in one of the ponds, and before too long, were labeling the feed "beaver cam". Insert your own jokes here…..

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Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix officials estimated the event's three-day attendance at 100,000, up about 5,000 from 2016.

QUOTES

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): "We definitely improved a lot overnight. The entire Penske team did a good job analyzing how we could do better in today's race and it showed. A lot of it here in Detroit comes down to strategy. It's not an easy race. Even if you have the fastest car, you aren't always going to win. My hats off to Kyle Moyer (race strategist), Ben Bretzman (engineer) and the entire No. 1 team. We were saving fuel pretty much the whole race, but the car was still phenomenal. It's not exactly what we want – we want to be up front more – but it was a decent day for the DXC Technology Chevy team."

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet):
"I'll be honest, I think we were all just trying to get to the end. There were just two laps to go and we had marbles all over the tires. In that type situation, there's not much you can do. You want to say you'd be able to go race this guy and try to beat him. And I would have done that if he messed up; if he made a mistake, I would try to capitalize. But if everyone stays steady, we are just trying to hold on to the race car. It's very difficult to do that at the end. When it's your weekend, it's your weekend. (Race-winner Graham) Rahal did a great job. It's a good bounce back for us at Team Penske in the hum by Verizon Chevrolet. It's good to be in Detroit. Thanks to all the fans that came out and Chevrolet for all they do. It's fun to be in this city. I was trying to get Chevrolet that win but just didn't have enough today."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet):
"The Hitachi Chevy was great again today. We had a little bit of bad luck there with Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and getting a tire cut down. It was early enough that I thought we might be able to overcome it, but we didn't get a caution until the very end. I wish we could have done better with our finish, but our car was strong. We'll head to Texas which is always a lot of fun."

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "It was a good race for us the whole way through. Felt like we had decent pace enough to stay in the top 10 with the ABC Supply car. Just our luck the yellow comes at the end. We didn't need that. It was a shame because as soon as we went green I had no front grip. I just couldn't hold my position. It was a shame for it to end like it did – this team deserved to be in the top 10."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "Obviously not the end of the day we wanted. The race started out OK, maintained position, and then unfortunately when we were committing to that three-stop strategy, I sped from the pits. That's on me, my fault, which put us to the back again – second day in a row. And it was the second day in a row that the No. 5 Arrow car was awesome; we managed to pull our way through the field and get ourselves in the top 10. We were up there with a couple laps to go and unfortunately had a motor go on us. It's tough to go out that late in the race, especially when we worked so hard to come back up and right the mistake I made earlier in the day. It just showed that we've got the pace, and big thanks to everybody at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for all the hard work this doubleheader weekend – at least Mikhail (Aleshin) had a solid finish for us. We'll move on to Texas where we were quick last year and hopefully we can repeat that again this year."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "That was not exactly the result that we wanted to have today. We had some technical issues, but we'll take it and move forward. We have so many races left in the season, and the next race is the famous Texas Motor Speedway. I like that track and we were good and fast there, so let's move on and see what we have there."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "We just didn't have the speed today and we were really struggling most of the day with balance. We were quicker than most of the cars in front, but we just couldn't get past them. I feel like I did the best that I could. It's time to move onto Texas and keep working hard for the results I know the Gallagher team is capable of."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Camping World Honda): "The problem on the pit stop really hurt us today. I think there was a problem with the fuel probe and normally we're really good in that area. That issue just cost us some crucial time and we tried to play catch up after that. I think (Josef) Newgarden finished second and we were ahead of him before that. It was unfortunate how it played out, but all-in-all a decent points today considering."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "Another tough day for NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing – really just a tough weekend overall here in Detroit. We struggled both days in qualifying and just couldn't ever get back up to the front in either race. We had an issue in the pits today that cost us a few spots with a drive-through penalty, but after a 15-place finish yesterday, we'll take a top 10. It's still nowhere close to where we need to be, but I'm always happy when we head into a race at a place like Texas where I know how strong we can be."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "Yesterday was just unlucky when the yellow came. We kind of went halfway between a two-stop and a three-stop. We went longer than the three-stop guys. I was saving so much fuel yesterday that I was too slow. The guys did a great job with the strategy today. I'm very happy with third. Today was much more representative of the car we had this weekend. Thanks to all of the guys, Verizon and Chevrolet."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "First off I want to say thank you to my ABC Supply No. 14 crew. I think they did a really good job to fix the car from qualifying to the race. They had to change the engine and rebuild almost half the car, so a big thanks to them. It would have been nice to be in the top 10, but I think from where we started 22nd to finish 11th wasn't bad. To get a good strategy today was really tough because there were no yellows at all so we couldn't do any strategy. But I think we were more competitive this weekend so that's positive. We'll keep working and hopefully we'll have a good car at Texas."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Soldier Strong / TurnsForTroops.com Honda): "Buckeyes like to win up in this state. It was just a good weekend – thanks to the crowd, thanks to Roger Penske, Bud Denker and everybody for putting this on. It's a tremendous event. And thank mother nature – we've never had this kind of luck around here. It was a great day, I'm really proud to get another win for the United Rentals guys, Turns For Troops, PennGrade, Steak n' Shake, Hyatt, Fifth Third Bank, Honda – everybody that makes this possible. It's a special day for us. We're the first one to win the double (in Detroit) means a lot. It feels great, trust me. Any day you can beat a Penske driver it means a lot."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Fifth Third Bank Honda):
"I'm very happy for the team and Graham (Rahal) and very disappointed in our day. We didn't get the one lap in qualifying after the red flag, and in the race we got a drive through penalty for speeding that we cannot understand. We looked through the data and think there may have been a problem with the cruise control because we never sped, so, without a yellow, there was no way to recover from that. It was a tough day at the office, but I'm really happy with the team and the work they have done. Graham had a dominating weekend and I'm very happy for him."

ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ (No. 18 UNIFIN Honda): "It was quite an experience. Two days of racing, two days of qualifying, one after the other. It was tough. It was a challenge to come here with no testing, straight into the car with two short practice sessions on one of the most physical tracks on the calendar. Two days in a row racing 70 laps – it was quite an experience, and an eventful race that we had today with good chances. I want to say thank you to all the team, all the crew. Fantastic experience. I really loved the experience this weekend, we have fantastic mechanics and engineers that supported me and helped me get comfortable with the car and all the procedures. It was pretty special and I'm hopefully looking forward to more."

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was a tough race. We tried a different strategy, I don't think it quite worked out, but obviously the contact we had is what sent us to the back and that's what really ruined our race. It's frustrating. It's our first bad result of the season, and those will happen in my rookie season at some point, but we're going to work hard and get ready for Texas."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "The car just lost power coming across the start/finish line. I don't know exactly what happened, and it didn't cost us a great finish, but it is a shame. Our races this year have been really good, this is the first weekend where we have struggled. It's something we'll try to learn from and make sure it doesn't happen again. The Fuzzy's Vodka guys have already had a long few weeks, now they have another problem to fix. Hopefully the No. 20 car can rebound next weekend at Texas and myself at Road America."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet):
"It was unfortunate that we started where we did because I think we would have been up the field if we had had a fair shot at qualifying. Given where we were, we went off strategy early and were putting in good laps. We caught all the way back up to the cars that had not yet made a pit stop, so we closed the whole 25 or 30 second gap back up. At that point, I got a call to pit, but stayed out thinking that we would be able to benefit from the cars around me pulling off and pitting. I ignored the fact that we were tight on fuel and that mistake, which was 100 percent mine, put us in a place where we had a super slow lap and ended up in a gaggle of cars we shouldn't have been around. We came into contact with another car, had a flat tire, came in, had to make an extra pit stop, went a lap down. There are some positives to take away from this weekend, we had some pace in both of the races because we figured some things out both with my driving and with the car. In the end, I'm disappointed with myself for having a small screw up each day that cost us a bunch of positions in the race. As we look to Road America and Toronto as the next couple of street circuits, we'll be looking to put it together in those events. I feel we did well here this weekend, but it doesn't show up that way on the stat sheets."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "It was a solid result. I think the team did a great job. We did everything we could and made no mistakes, but we just didn't quite have the speed today. I'm proud of getting on the front row in qualifying and we will work hard the rest of the season. I think we kept ourselves in championship contention by finishing P4 and getting points. We need to find out why we lost the speed for the race but we will look at all the data. It was a good day."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Magneti Marelli Honda):
"We just lost some unnecessary time. The car was not good in dirty air. When we were alone, our pace was good, but in dirty air we were just really bad. That's basically the difference and caused us to switch to a three-stop strategy. We were hoping for more, and will move on to Texas."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "We just missed the race setup again today. The DHL car was strong in qualifying and we started on the front row, but in the race the car was all over the place. Then we had contact with Helio that broke our front wing. We lost ground changing it and then from there we just struggled, didn't get any breaks and spent too much time in pit lane."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "The timing stand made the right call with the two-stop strategy. It meant I had to save quite a bit of fuel at times, but we were still able to run a pretty good pace and get a pretty good fuel mileage number. Overall I'm happy with the day. We didn't have any good luck or any help, but we didn't have any bad luck either. The way this year has gone, we'll definitely take that. We'll take a top 10 and pick up a little momentum heading to Texas looking for a podium, if not a win next weekend."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): "(Qualifying) this morning really hurt because we went out on used tires for the one-lap shootout after the red flag and that was the wrong decision, so we started 14th instead of towards the front. In the race, we had to really make the most of the first stint on blacks and I think we did. We made the reds last a long time, as well, so I think the car was quite a bit better than yesterday. I think seventh was a decent result considering we started 14th and it's pretty hard to pass here."

Results

Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap LPit FTime ST Engine Points
1 15 Graham Rahal 70 67 1:15.073 3 Honda 251
2 2 Josef Newgarden 70 1.1772 1.1772 67 1:14.638 13 Chevy 259
3 12 Will Power 70 2.6228 1.4456 67 1:15.318 7 Chevy 233
4 26 Takuma Sato 70 3.8535 1.2307 67 1:15.398 1 Honda 292
5 1 Simon Pagenaud 70 4.0810 0.2275 67 1:15.686 11 Chevy 278
6 9 Scott Dixon 70 4.6005 0.5195 67 1:15.247 8 Honda 303
7 98 Alexander Rossi 70 6.1978 1.5973 67 1:15.762 14 Honda 246
8 83 Charlie Kimball 70 6.6823 0.4845 67 1:15.867 12 Honda 132
9 3 Helio Castroneves 70 6.8439 0.1616 67 1:15.633 4 Chevy 295
10 10 Tony Kanaan 70 7.7201 0.8762 67 1:15.766 15 Honda 223
11 14 Carlos Munoz 70 8.1160 0.3959 67 1:15.990 22 Chevy 168
12 4 Conor Daly 70 8.7847 0.6687 67 1:15.832 10 Chevy 114
13 27 Marco Andretti 70 9.6103 0.8256 67 1:15.828 9 Honda 182
14 18 Esteban Gutierrez 70 13.1325 3.5222 67 1:15.870 19 Honda 27
15 8 Max Chilton 69 1 LAPS 80.2118 66 1:15.774 16 Honda 204
16 7 Mikhail Aleshin 69 1 LAPS 2.3253 66 1:15.800 6 Honda 177
17 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 69 1 LAPS 0.6204 66 1:15.698 2 Honda 183
18 21 JR Hildebrand 69 1 LAPS 0.9486 66 1:15.957 18 Chevy 173
19 16 Oriol Servia 69 1 LAPS 0.8911 66 1:16.255 20 Honda 61
20 5 James Hinchcliffe 65 40.4355 0.7411 50 1:15.616 5 Honda 216
21 20 Spencer Pigot 65 1 LAPS 24.1892 49 1:16.725 21 Chevy 124
22 19 Ed Jones 60 1 LAPS 11.9360 48 1:15.953 17 Honda 215

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 105.442 mph
Time of race: 1:33:36.3769
Margin of victory: 1.1772 seconds
Cautions: 1 for 2 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 3 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Sato 1-22
Rahal 23-24
Newgarden 25-29
Rahal 30-47
Newgarden 48-49
Rahal 50-70

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 303, Castroneves 295, Sato 292, Pagenaud 278, Newgarden 259, Rahal 251, Rossi 246, Power 233, Kanaan 223, Hinchcliffe 216.

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