Rahal edges Hinchcliffe to win Firestone 600

Graham Rahal
Graham Rahal shoots the traditional guns in victory lane at Texas

Ya had to wait for it. 77 days in fact, then another 100 laps as one car put a hurting on the rest of the field. But in that last 8 laps, racing addicts got their fix as cars went 4-wide to decide the race by 8/1000th of a second, the fifth-closest in IndyCar history. But yes, you had to wait for it.

At the restart of the rain-delayed (for 77 days!) there were only 2 stories — first, James Hinchcliffe checked out on the field. And, by the time lap 200 went by there were only 5 cars on the lead lap — Hinchcliffe, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, and Tony Kanaan.

The only other story was the continuing saga of Takuma Sato. Sato's oval car is still in the shop from last Monday's mishap at Pocono, so he was running the road course car today. His car then suffered a mechanical failure on the second lap of practice that has never been heard of before — a failure of the bell crank pivot on the front right. The car went straight into the turn 4 wall, damaging the entire right side. The team spent the day trying to extract a single glued-in, torqued to 100 ft/lbs bolt stud from the pivot along with repairing the damage to the right side of the car. When the race resumed, all sorts of gremlins set it– a radio failure, a battery failure, and so on — so the team finally called it quits on lap 160. Sato finished 20th.

On lap 213 the caution flag flew when Scott Dixon got together with Ed Carpenter. Dixon was the first car a lap down, while Ed was third. Dixon was sure that Ed pushed him down to the apex of the tri-oval front stretch, but replays begged the question. Ed continued, Dixon finished 19th.

The green flag flew on lap 220, but came right back out on lap 224 when Ed's rear tire — previously struck by Dixon and having decided not to pit — went flat. Ed spun, collecting Helio Castroneves in the process. Ed finished 18th, the fitting end to a miserable season for the oval ace. Castroneves pitted for new wings front and rear, and finished 5th, last car on the lead lap.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]The green flew on lap 230, but on lap 233 Mikhail Aleshin lost control of his car, and Jack Hawksworth had nowhere to go but into Mikhail. Aleshin had unlapped himself on the previous restart, and was coming back thru the field. Aleshin finished 16h, Hawksworth 17th. Hawksworth was limping visibly out of the car, but was checked and released by medical officials.

The restart came with 9 laps to go, and came down to a good old-fashioned Texas shoot-out between Hinchcliffe, Tony Kanaan, Simon Pagenaud (who had just unlapped himself) and Graham Rahal. What followed were 9 laps of the best racing ever seen anywhere in any series. The four raced side by side for a bit before Pagenaud remembered he was the points leader and backed out, finishing 4th. TK was on fresh tires, but finished 3rd. Graham stalked Hinchcliffe on the last lap, and was able to dive under Hinchcliffe and grab the lead with maybe 200 yards to go, winning by 8/1000th of a second. Or, about 2 feet.

***************

It was tough for IndyCar to test wing / downforce formulas for TMS, especially since this was (legally) a continuation of the June race. HOWEVER, this race was reminiscent of the old high-downforce races, with cars running in packs. Granted, this makes for entertaining and exciting racing, but the close running at 200+ mph also makes for highly dangerous racing. It's the same concerns raised after the last California race. And the Vegas race. 'Nuff said.

QUOTES

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was just OK. We struggled most of the night in the long run pace. The short run pace was good. I restarted last there, and drove up to fourth. It is little too late like every race has been. Just mistakes again that we really have to work on that."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet): "That was an eventful night. The AAA Insurance Chevrolet was really good from the very start. We ran up front and led some laps. Then, all kinds of things happened. We caught a break with a yellow which allowed us to come in and change both the front and rear wings. To dodge as many accidents as we did and finish fifth is very good. There were some crazy moves up there at the end that could have ruined just about everybody's day. But we're ready to head to Watkins Glen."

JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda): "It was a tough finish, for sure. It was a great race. The Arrow Electronics car was just a rocket ship. We built the thing to be good over a tire stint, which is always the name of the game here in Texas. Tire degradation is key. We haven't had a late-finish, three-wide battle here in Texas since 2011. It was tough. We kept a lot of guys at bay. Like I said, we really built the car for long runs and on those restarts we kept them at bay a couple times but ultimately, Graham (Rahal) and TK (Tony Kanaan) stopped for tires and I think that was kind of the difference maker. It's a tough call but huge credit to the Arrow Electronics boys because the car really was a rocket and congrats to Graham. It's a lot of fun racing up there with those guys and I think we put on a much better show for the fans than we would've if we were leading by half a straight. We'd have liked it better but we're here to put on a good show."

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Schmidt Peterson Honda): "Unfortunately, that incident is what happens when a lapped car keeps pushing you out onto the marbles. We had a really great car tonight and it was definitely capable of finishing in the top three or four. The SMP Racing crew did an amazing job and we'll be able to show how fast we are soon."

MAX CHILTON (No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "It was just an absolutely crazy race. It was two, three and sometimes four wide out there. I was struggling with the balance of the Gallagher car all night. We took three and a half turns of front wing out and it still didn't feel right. I was struggling to get the car to feel right especially when we ran in a pack – it was just so neutral. There were times in clear air when we were quick, but on a whole it was a bit of a poor day. On the other side of things, we finished and ran all the laps and got good experience under our belts."

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): "I like Ed (Carpenter) and he's a good friend, but I don't know what the hell he was doing out there. Three laps before that he nearly crashed me doing the same thing going into Turn 3. And then going into Turn 1, he just turned left into me. I don't know if his radio wasn't working or he didn't have a spotter, but how you don't get a penalty for that I have no idea."

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet): "Oh, that was so much fun. I've got to thank the fans that came back. I didn't think there was going to be a lot of people but whoever didn't come missed a hell of a race. That was some old school Texas right there. It was a good night. We started way in the back, but we made up positions right away. I think with INDYCAR not changing the rules and the earlier race being a day race, we had a ton of downforce that we had to run during tonight's race, so the cars felt a lot closer as you could see. I had to dig into my hard drive and remember pack racing again. It worked out pretty well. Big props to the guys in front who gave each other room, that's why we finished the way we did. It's always a pleasure to race like that. I feel bad for the people that didn't come back tonight from the first race to watch because it really was a hell of a show." (On how exciting the end was) "When you have good cars going with each other, it's quicker. I gave them hell!" (On where he wanted to be for the last lap) "On the inside. But if Graham (Rahal) wasn't pushing Hinch (James Hinchcliffe), I was going to have it. So, I was hoping for Graham to get greedy and go three wide. That was going to slow everybody down, but that didn't happen. He was smart enough."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS (No. 11 Team Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing Chevrolet): "It was a tough night for the Hydroxycut – KVSH Racing team. We knew we were going to be on the shy side with the downforce level because that was the way it was when we were here in June. At that time, we didn't anticipate that everyone else would stack up on downforce and we didn't have some of the parts we needed. So, of course, we had to restart that way, which was quite frustrating honestly. I knew it was going to be tough in the beginning and it sure was in traffic. I was basically just trying to stay out of trouble and manage my tires. Then during the second stint when it stretched out, I went for it and after 15 laps the tires disintegrated and the car got very loose on my own. I was out of adjustments, so we had to make an earlier pit stop, which destroyed our race. After that we corrected. We were still not good in traffic, but could hold some decent speeds, 204 (mph), 205 even toward the end of our stint. Unfortunately, the leaders were running 207, 208 and there was nothing we could do about it, so I went a couple of laps down. We fought our way through the race, but it is definitely not fun when you have to be that passive, just hanging on and trying to bring it home. The good news is we finished in the top 10 on all the ovals this year so we have made progress."

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): (On Texas being the race that changes the points battle) "Yeah, I would say that. Obviously there are still plenty of points on the table. Simon (Pagenaud) did a good job to get up there and get his lap back and get tires to make it up there. But that was an intense race there at the end. I kind of just stayed out of it." (On not finishing second or third for the first time since Detroit and what made the difference) "I think it was definitely the pit stop sequences. We kept going long. That yellow had us there at the end. And I think if we didn't get that yellow, I would have finished around Simon; maybe ahead, maybe behind, however the stint played out, but much closer to him. But that was going to be a crazy restart at the end there. It was something to watch. Intense racing there at the end, especially with the last restart and with new tires and cool air being a factor. The cautions in the midst of some of the pit stop sequences made it more difficult to get back up into the top two or three, but the Verizon Chevy was still strong today. We are still up there in points and Watkins Glen is right around the corner for us. We'll look ahead to next week."

TAKUMA SATO (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "Tough night. We had a component failure in practice and just got one lap. The ABC Supply boys did a great job to put it back together in such a short time. We had a few too many issues in the race. We just weren't sure what was wrong. We didn't want to risk it so we are just going to get ready for the next one."

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda): "It was just a really good battle with Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) and TK (Tony Kanaan). I've got to tip my hat off to Hinch. He did a great job tonight. He led that thing pretty well from start to finish other than a couple hundred yards. Great job by him and TK. I have to apologize to TK for rubbing him there. I think Helio just flew up the track and hit me and I hit TK. We're lucky we made it all through. That was a great show. We appreciate all the fans that came out tonight. I hope you guys all go home and talk about how great INDYCAR racing is because that's as good of a show as you're going to get. My Firestones (tires) were great and I knew mine were very consistent over the whole stint. We started to lose them maybe with five or 10 (laps) to go but I knew I was going to be better than everybody else. I was just only concerned about TK on the fresh rubber. I didn't realize after he had pitted he'd be allowed to get all the way back up to us. I thought he'd be stuck behind the lapped cars and I thought it would come down to a duel between Hinch and I, but we fended him off. My car, my god, what a machine tonight. This PennGrade machine was just flawless. We had United Rentals, Steak 'n' Shake, Mi-Jack and Hyatt and everybody that supports us and gets us here. This means a lot."

GABBY CHAVES (No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda): "It was an entertaining race. We were not optimal for the conditions tonight. We had really put everything in the car set up for the day race we had over two months ago, and with the cooler temperatures here at night it didn't suit us and it kind of went more towards the other cars on the grid. We knew that. We knew that on restarts we'd be sitting ducks and we just had to hang on as hard as we could. We tried to for a while. I thought we had a pretty decent race car, hanging in the top six in the first stint. But then the balance was a little off, a little loose, and we just kind of fought that all night. Obviously not ideal, especially in such a close and tough race like we have here in Texas."

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Fuzzy's Vodka Chevrolet): "The car was awesome. On long runs, I think we were for sure the best car out there. I'd cut into James (Hinchcliffe)'s lead every stint. He was a little quicker. We didn't have the fastest car, but it was good on the long runs. I'm just bummed. It's been such a rough year. We've had such better cars that what we had last year and really just can't catch a break. Whatever happened with Scott (Dixon) and I there, when my left rear touched his front wing, it must have cut a tire and that led to the accident. I'm just really bummed. I thought tonight was a night that we could have gotten a good result. It's going to be a long off season before I can get back in the car, but we'll come back strong next year."

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevrolet): "My spotter said, 'four-wide', and I'm like 'Uh oh, that's no good'. And then (Graham) Rahal touched me and I touched (James) Hinchcliffe, so I was actually loose going into the corner and had to back out of it. It's unfortunate. I really wanted to get that first oval win. But, I think no matter what, that was a great performance. The HP car was amazing all night. Thanks to Chevy, obviously; this aero kit is really amazing. It really shows what the Indy cars can do. I think tonight we had a great show. Did you guys enjoy it? I did. Wow. That was exciting. I don't think I have any breath left. I thought we were going to get it, but when it went four wide I got touched and pushed me into (James Hinchcliffe) and I had to back out of it or there was going to be a big wreck. The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy just got better and better all night. I really thought it was going to come together right at the end when we got back on the lead lap. We were able to come in for tires. Everything nearly came together."

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): "I was a little disappointed, if I am honest. The positive side, I think, is we got better position than what our speed showed. The balance wasn't there in the car. After the first stint it wasn't the balance we expected to have. But, you know, it's just racing. Still (finished) seventh, it's all right with points. Honda did a great job – I'm really happy Honda went P1 and P2. We will have to keep working hard."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 27 Snapple Honda): "I guess we can't be too unhappy, coming from 18th, but we were really just lacking overall grip. I'm not sure where to start with the car; we're just a step down on grip than my competitors. There was one stint when I was actually running flat out, and three cars passed me. It's frustrating. We need more speed and are hoping to find it at The Glen next weekend."

RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 DHL Honda): "I'm happy to get the car back in one piece tonight. I found out after the race that we had oil leaking over the right rear (tire) every stint but the first. I was just wicked loose the whole day and did everything I could to just keep (the car) off the wall. Really glad we came out OK, but it seems our luck continues. I'm really looking forward to returning to The Glen next week and hoping to get the DHL car up front where it belongs."

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 41 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Honda): "We had a pretty decent car which was good but started two laps down because of all that happened here last time. Disappointing. On another day where we started on the lead lap we would have had a strong result. (On the accident) The car spun in directly in front of me and I had nowhere to go and got collected."

CHARLIE KIMBALL (No. 83 Tresiba Chevrolet): "It was kind of a crazy night out there. I'm really proud of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk guys here at Texas. I don't think we were particularly strong here in June when the race started, but we learned some things from our teammates. The guys were solid all night in pit lane, the strategy calls were right on and we were knocking on the door of the top five which was good. It got crazy there at the end and we just couldn't get our lap back which was unfortunate. It was a good day in the points for us which I'm happy about."

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda): "That was a night of trying to stay out of trouble – and we did that. From the first stint I knew our tire life wasn't where it needed to be. It's a bit of a mystery. No matter what we did in the pit stops or what I adjusted in the car or any different scenario, we were losing the tires way too early and around here that is a lot of lap time and it cost us. But it was good we kept the Castrol Edge car out of trouble, drove a clean race and got the points that we did."

RESULTS

Pos No Name Laps Diff Gap FTime Led ST FSpeed Engine PTS
1 15 Graham Rahal 248 0.0000 0.0000 24.572 1 13 213.167 Honda 394
2 5 James Hinchcliffe 248 0.0080 0.0080 24.546 188 10 213.392 Honda 392
3 10 Tony Kanaan 248 0.0903 0.0823 24.593 1 8 212.985 Chevy 416
4 22 Simon Pagenaud 248 0.4773 0.3870 24.623 0 6 212.728 Chevy 529
5 3 Helio Castroneves 248 9.3424 8.8651 24.671 7 3 212.316 Chevy 415
6 83 Charlie Kimball 247 1 LAPS 19.5875 24.612 0 15 212.822 Chevy 361
7 26 Carlos Munoz 247 1 LAPS 0.5108 24.490 37 1 213.881 Honda 382
8 12 Will Power 247 1 LAPS 1.7230 24.577 0 7 213.125 Chevy 501
9 2 Juan Pablo Montoya 246 2 LAPS 23.7998 24.642 0 17 212.566 Chevy 345
10 11 Sebastien Bourdais 246 2 LAPS 2.3684 24.593 0 18 212.986 Chevy 334
11 98 Alexander Rossi 246 2 LAPS 0.0499 24.657 0 9 212.439 Honda 346
12 27 Marco Andretti 245 3 LAPS 24.5233 24.722 0 12 211.876 Honda 273
13 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay 245 3 LAPS 0.8617 24.783 11 11 211.351 Honda 348
14 19 Gabby Chaves 245 3 LAPS 0.5360 24.732 0 22 211.791 Honda 121
15 8 Max Chilton 243 5 LAPS 2 LAPS 25.158 0 19 208.202 Chevy 219
16 7 Mikhail Aleshin 231 5 LAPS 2 LAPS 24.673 0 16 212.299 Honda 301
17 41 Jack Hawksworth 227 4 LAPS 1 LAPS 24.882 0 20 210.517 Honda 191
18 20 Ed Carpenter 223 0.3349 0.3349 24.788 1 14 211.313 Chevy 67
19 9 Scott Dixon 211 1 LAPS 7.9850 24.380 0 2 214.851 Chevy 397
20 14 Takuma Sato 160 17 LAPS 13 LAPS 25.008 0 4 209.450 Honda 275
21 18 Conor Daly 42 29 LAPS 27 LAPS 25.203 0 21 207.834 Honda 263
22 21 Josef Newgarden 41 30 LAPS 1 LAPS 25.116 2 5 208.553 Chevy 406

Race Statistics
Winner's average speed: 144.901
Time of Race: 02:29:24.8886
Margin of victory: 0.0080 of a second
Cautions: 5 for 53 laps
Lead changes: 14 among 8 drivers

Lap Leaders:
Munoz 1 – 37
Newgarden 38 – 39
Hunter-Reay 40
Hinchcliffe 41 – 74
Hunter-Reay 75 – 84
Hinchcliffe 85 – 120
Castroneves 121 – 126
Hinchcliffe 127 – 220
Carpenter 221
Hinchcliffe 222 – 225
Castroneves 226
Hinchcliffe 227 – 235
Kanaan 236
Hinchcliffe 237 – 247
Rahal 248

Verizon IndyCar Series point standings: Pagenaud 529, Power 501, Kanaan 416, Castroneves 415, Newgarden 406, Dixon 397, Rahal 394, Hinchcliffe 392, Munoz 382, Kimball 361.

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