Rahal dominates Detroit GP Race 1

Rahal dominate in Detroit for first win of year
Rahal dominates in Detroit for first win of year

Graham Rahal dominated the first race of the 2017 Detroit Grand Prix. Scott Dixon proved naysayers wrong coming in a (somewhat distant second). James Hinchcliffe shook off a first-lap spin to finish third.

The day did start off with some fireworks — Helio Castroneves won the Pole position with a new track record attempt, beating out Graham Rahal's time set in the previous session. However, literally, as Castroneves was getting ready to put on the "Pole Award" sticker, he was notified of a rules violation. Helio responded as many of us would — the team opted to skip the post-qualification press conference — but the damage was slight, as Helio's second-best lap was still good enough for a front row start, right besides Graham Rahal.

For his part, Graham was not normally known for stellar qualification efforts in the past, but this week was different. Early on he commented that, if he could only start from the front, he could dominate the race. Well, it's not bragging if you can do it, right?

The start of the race drew an immediate yellow flag when James Hinchcliffe spun on the first lap. Replays made it clear that Hinch wasn't punted, but merely overcooked his cold tires. By the time the pits open he was legally able to change off of the red tires that he started with onto the black tires.

Just a few notes on the tires — the rules state that each driver must use both red and black tires, unless it's one of those rain deals. And the tires must be on for 2 laps minimum. While the red tires were great for qualification blasts, teams learned over the weekend that they just fell off too fast to be competitive in the race. While all drivers save Conor Daly would start on reds, all changed out as quickly as possible. Indeed, only Alexander Rossi found the blacks to be slower, something that his team engineers will no doubt study tonight in the paddock.

The crowd was robust for Saturday's race, bigger than we could remember
The crowd was robust for Saturday's race, bigger than we could remember

The green flag flew on lap 3, and Graham took control of the race until he pitted on lap 23 — well beyond what most drivers were willing to do on the red tires. Indeed, Graham lead a total of 55 laps, probably close to twice what he'd lead in any other race. After pit stops were done, he fell in behind Helio for 11 laps, 4 of them under caution.

The caution flag flew on lap 26 when Conor Daly — who had used up most of his Push 2 Pass by that time but was moving up thru the field nicely — and Charlie Kimball managed to tangle. Kimball soldiered on after replacing a front wing, 1 lap down for the rest of the day. Sadly, Conor's promising run was done, as his engine failed to refire and officials pulled him behind the fence. Kimball finished 21st, Conor 22nd.

The green flag flew again on lap 30, and when Castroneves pitted on lap 36, Rahal took over for another 12-lap domination until he pitted on lap 47. Rahal by this time hadn't touched his Push 2 Pass button, and was settling in and praying that there were no cautions. By this time, most of the other teams were doing 4 different strategies, including what appeared to be 4 different strategies for the 4 Penske cars. Sato and Will Power pitted early and prayed for cautions, others came in somewhere near lap 48 when Rahal made his last pit stop.

Rahal took the lead back on lap 51 and simply walked away from Scott Dixon in the final 20 laps. At one point his lead was over 9 seconds, and even managed to lap Will Power in the process.


Tomorrow's race could be much different — and more entertaining, as there is a 50-60% chance of thunderstorms tomorrow here in Detroit. In addition, a line of storms is moving through the area tonight will no doubt will affect the track conditions.


Qualifications begin tomorrow at 10:45.


SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): "That was a frustrating race for the DXC Technology Chevy team. That's not the way we wanted to debut this beautiful car. I'm not sure how we actually ended up finishing 16th. There were just so many different pit strategies out there today. That caution also bit us at the wrong time. I hate to drop down in the points, but we have another race tomorrow. This is a strong team and we will rebound."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a pretty good day for us – pretty good points. We obviously want a little bit more and I think we had more in the hum by Verizon Chevy. Fourth (place) is what we could get with the yellows and the way they played out today, but it's still a great run for us. It's a good top five – I wish we could have raced for the win a little bit better but we needed the race to play out differently. We didn't need that yellow – that caught us out. But a good day overall, we'll try to go for another good result and maybe a win."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): "That was really fun. The cautions didn't work out for us. I didn't save an ounce of fuel. The Hitachi Chevy was super fast. It's just unfortunate that we couldn't get to the front. It's pretty difficult to pass, so you need a few things to go your way and they didn't. I drove the heck out of that car today. The fun part is we get to go right back out there tomorrow."

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "I don't know what happened, the car just died so it's got to be something electrical. The ABC Supply car was really good up to that point – it was good on blacks, good on reds and we were just chipping away at it. Hopefully we can go after it tomorrow."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "Tires are the name of the game here. To be able to get off the reds (alternate Firestone tires) after the spin in the first turn there played to our advantage. Then we got that yellow at the right time right after out stop. It put us up where we belonged, and I think we showed that the No. 5 Arrow car had a lot of pace. To come back from that – the SPM boys were great in the pits and really happy to grab a podium here today."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "I think we were pretty competitive and we had a great strategy. The Lucas Oil car was very good, so that allowed me to overtake a couple people at the beginning and be competitive throughout the race. I'm proud of our boys, and from where we started I think it's a great day."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Honda): "That was one of those races where I got out giving myself a pat on the back. I was aggressive on the start and got some positions. Everyone was on a different strategy and we were unfortunately stuck behind (Will) Power holding us up fuel-saving. We just couldn't pass him because he was quick where he needed to be and slow where he could hold us up. When they decided to pit me, I was probably the second or third fastest car out there and my average for the race was fifth fastest. I was rocking, but the problem was that we had to pit again and some other strategies were just more preferred than ours. I'm really happy with the Gallagher Racing team on those stops."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Camping World Honda): "It was a tough race no matter what. Physically for me it was tougher than normal. I think I was favoring a lot of things, but I'm just so proud of the whole Camping World crew. They did an amazing job, and the car was fast. Today was great for points. I'm definitely going to go back to my RV here and put my foot in a big bucket of ice, and see if I can cool it off. Hopefully get some good rest tonight and obviously qualifying tomorrow is going to be key for the race. We've got to come out blazing. We've definitely got to improve the car – it's not perfect right now."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Honda): "What can I say, it just wasn't there for us today. We made the call to go on an alternate strategy and pit early, but that strategy didn't work out the way we needed it to. It's never good to start in the middle of the pack on a street course with passing being so difficult, so our 15th-place qualifying position obviously didn't help. Good news is that we have tomorrow to rebound and try to turn this weekend around."

Will Power was never a factor
Will Power was never a factor

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "We needed a few things to go our way today and they didn't. The Verizon Chevy team has worked hard. My hat is off to Graham (Rahal). They had a great car today. We were really needing a caution on those last two stints. We had to save so much fuel and go really slow in a really fast race car. The bright side is that we get right back at it tomorrow."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): "The strategy didn't pay off today – we lost a couple spots with that yellow. The car ran OK – much better than qualifying. It was a little more competitive. We need to make some changes to have a good qualifying run tomorrow. Hopefully we are lucky with the strategy. It was a good effort by the ABC Supply team today."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Soldier Strong / TurnsForTroops.com Honda): "First of all, I got to say thanks to my boys. The guys did a great job in the pits. You know, Eddie (Jones, engineer), Martin (Pare, engineer), Mike (Talbott, head of vehicle dynamics), Tom (German, engineering consultant), all the engineers, Alex (Farina, engineer), all the guys that came up with this setup. As I said to you guys yesterday, we rolled off the truck and it was right there. So definitely pleased with that because we changed one thing this weekend. That doesn't normally happen, so I'm really excited about that. But, yes, we were firing on all cylinders today. We were able to match whatever pace we needed to. We were able to run some blistering fast times while saving a ton of fuel, so thanks to Honda for that. I could certainly do the number that I needed to. You know, it's just a routine day. As I said to you guys yesterday, and trust me, a lot of drivers didn't like my comment that I felt like I could dominate if I got out front, but I didn't lie. I didn't say that in any other way other than I felt that confident in my car. It's not about anything else. I just knew if I could be out front in clean air, we could do what we did today. I'm very fortunate for the team around me. The guys did a tremendous job. For United Rentals, Soldier Strong, Turns For Troops, we raised a lot more money, hopefully we sold some T-shirts today. We're looking forward to tomorrow."

ORIOL SERVIA (No. 16 Fifth Third Bank Honda): "We were running our race. Starting last, we did what we had to do which was try to do the opposite of what most people were doing in terms of pitting. We knew we had a good pace and it was working out, except the driver pushed the pit speed button twice, so it engaged and disengaged. And I didn't realize that so once I pushed the throttle it went over the speed. Then I got the drive through penalty for speeding. It is what it is. At least the team got a win, a dominant one at that. I'm very happy for the whole team and Graham (Rahal) especially. A win like this brings the morale up for the rest of the season and shows the pace and speed of the car and all of the work done. I hope that I can at least be with him on the podium tomorrow and bring Fifth Third Bank a good result."

"I'm very pleased and very grateful with the support I got from the team. It's been very important for me to get into a rhythm. Obviously, it was a very big challenge to throw ourselves into a weekend at Detroit. A very difficult track and not knowing the car. This race was basically to get the rhythm, to find the speed and to complete the 70 laps and that goal today was achieved. We're going to look for more for tomorrow's race, but we're taking it step-by-step. It was a good day and a positive one because I could find more speed, more pace. I was more comfortable and more consistent. I feel very grateful with how everything went today."

ED JONES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was a good race, I started off not driving well enough earlier this weekend, but I made big steps every session and I feel like finally we were quite comfortable with the track, so I was able to attack more. The car was really good and it allowed me to overtake some people and keep consistent lap times throughout the stints and we ran a good strategy. All in all everything worked together well and it gives me confidence for tomorrow."

SPENCER PIGOT (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "It was a decent race. The guys did a really good job in the pits and also on the timing stand to bring us in at the right time. We were able to jump some people in pits but at the end of the day, we still have things to work on and improve on for tomorrow. We'll try to get a little more pace out of the car. I'm happy with a top 10 and happy for everyone at Fuzzy's Vodka and Chevy, but we're definitely going to work to be higher up tomorrow."

JR HILDEBRAND (No. 21 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "The strategy options today more or less became a wash, so we opted to stay out on the reds at the beginning. Once we got on the black tires and got into clean air, we had some genuine pace throughout the race which was definitely a positive for me and for the Fuzzy's Vodka team. When it was all said and done, we were running in a position that would have had us in the top 10 at the end of the race. On our final pit stop, I just crossed over the pit exit line too early and ended up with a drive through penalty that cost us 20 seconds. In that happening, a bunch of cars slotted in between where I was and where I ended up. It was super frustrating to have just a little thing like that ruin our day from a results perspective. I really do genuinely think there were some good takeaways for us. We found some speed, we're trying some different things, I'm trying some different things that seem to be working better than the past couple of street course events. Hopefully we can make good on the pace that we had in this race and have ourselves a bit of a better outcome tomorrow."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "Tough day. We had a very strong qualifying in third and the start of the race we a good, clean start. We were holding position. Although the top two cars were very strong. We were starting from behind and we were struggling for pace on the reds in the first stint. After the yellows when the field changed the tires, it looks like they had more speed, so the team decided to go to the short stint. In the end, it cost us a little bit in terms of strategy and having three stops was tough. But the boys did a good job. We need to gather the data now to make the car fast and hopefully we have an even stronger race tomorrow."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Magneti Marelli Honda): "We just didn't have pace today, and then were stuck in traffic so never really had a chance to open it up. Between traffic and no pace, passing isn't going to happen. So, we just kind of ran in traffic all day, but we'll hope for better tomorrow."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "It was a frustrating day for the DHL team. The pit strategy just didn't work out for us again. It seems that cars that ended up in the wall, or on pit lane during Lap 1 ended up on the podium. Marco and I had a great fight on track though – we were like two kids that weren't welcome to the party on the outside fighting it out, but it was fun. We'll pull together tonight and hopefully come back stronger tomorrow."

Rossi was as high as 2nd but faded on the black tires
Rossi was as high as 2nd but faded on the black tires

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Honda): "I don't know when we're going to get some good luck this season. We just keep getting followed by gremlins. Unfortunately the No. 4 car just had a mechanical failure right in front of me and I had nowhere to go and just clipped him and spun. I feel badly for the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing crew because they did a really fast first pit stop and gained position. In clean air we were definitely going forward. We have a quick car which bodes well for tomorrow. We just have to manage and react to what the weather does and go racing another 70 laps tomorrow."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Andretti Autosport/Curb Honda): "We weren't quick enough today. The top four were on another level. I think our first stint on reds was strong, but on blacks we slowed a little bit in speed. That's the thing with doubleheaders, we can learn from today and go into tomorrow with a better car."


Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap Pits Led ST Engine Points
1 15 Graham Rahal 70 0.0000 0.0000 2 55 1 Honda 198
2 9 Scott Dixon 70 6.1474 6.1474 2 2 6 Honda 275
3 5 James Hinchcliffe 70 9.1688 3.0214 3 1 5 Honda 206
4 2 Josef Newgarden 70 10.0930 0.9242 3 0 9 Chevy 218
5 98 Alexander Rossi 70 25.5556 15.4626 2 0 4 Honda 220
6 7 Mikhail Aleshin 70 31.3644 5.8088 3 1 20 Honda 163
7 3 Helio Castroneves 70 33.1052 1.7408 3 11 2 Chevy 273
8 26 Takuma Sato 70 47.4696 14.3644 3 0 3 Honda 258
9 19 Ed Jones 70 53.6531 6.1835 2 0 21 Honda 207
10 20 Spencer Pigot 70 54.0726 0.4195 3 0 17 Chevy 115
11 8 Max Chilton 70 55.2547 1.1821 3 0 8 Honda 189
12 27 Marco Andretti 69 57.5897 2.9577 3 0 13 Honda 165
13 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 69 58.3759 0.7862 3 0 12 Honda 169
14 14 Carlos Munoz 69 59.7625 1.3866 3 0 14 Chevy 149
15 10 Tony Kanaan 69 60.7666 1.0041 3 0 15 Honda 203
16 1 Simon Pagenaud 69 61.0967 0.3301 3 0 7 Chevy 248
17 21 JR Hildebrand 69 66.5972 5.5005 4 0 18 Chevy 161
18 12 Will Power 69 1 LAPS 9.8903 2 0 11 Chevy 198
19 18 Esteban Gutierrez 69 1 LAPS 3.5175 2 0 19 Honda 11
20 16 Oriol Servia 69 1 LAPS 34.3508 4 0 22 Honda 50
21 83 Charlie Kimball 68 1 LAPS 41.3764 4 0 10 Honda 108
22 4 Conor Daly 25 25.6715 0.7044 1 0 16 Chevy 96

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 103.015 mph
Time of Race: 1:35:48.7028
Margin of victory: 6.1474 seconds
Cautions: 2 for 6 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 5 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Rahal 1-23
Aleshin 24
Castroneves 25-35
Rahal 36-47
Hinchcliffe 48
Dixon 49-50
Rahal 51-70

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Dixon 275, Castroneves 273, Sato 258, Pagenaud 248, Rossi 220, Newgarden 218, Jones 207, Hinchcliffe 206, Kanaan 203, Power 198.

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