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Rahal Hauls It During Final Practice

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 10 2016
Driver Graham Rahal was terrific in practice at TMS.

Driver Graham Rahal was terrific in practice at TMS.

FORT WORTH, Texas – Graham Rahal rallied from a disappointing qualifying effort and an overall frustrating Friday to the top of the speed chart during the final Verizon IndyCar Series practice leading into Saturday night’s 20th annual Firestone 600.

Rahal toured TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval in 24.4841-seconds and 213.935 mph during a 47-lap run in conditions expected to be similar for Saturday night’s 248-lap/372-miler. Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, edged Josef Newgarden and his lap of 213.318 mph in the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet.

The half-hour session was conducted with the ambient temperature reading 92 degrees, and a track temp of 113 degrees, according to Firestone Racing engineers.

Rahal qualified 13th Friday afternoon with a two-lap average of 215.927 mph. Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport earned his first series pole at 217.137 mph in the No. 26 Honda.

“I’m disappointed to start 13th,” Rahal said. “I thought the balance wasn’t bad in qualifying and I thought the speed, when I saw it, wasn’t bad based on last year. I didn’t think that many guys would go that much quicker but let’s focus on the race car and make it the best we can.

“I hate having to come from mid-pack to challenge but we’ve got a lot of laps tomorrow night to do that. I only ran 10 laps this morning due to the gearbox issue and only ran one qualifying sim compared to others who did two or three but I thought the car felt pretty good. The guys did a great job to get the car fixed for qualifying.”

Saturday’s event will be Rahal’s eighth start in Fort Worth and ninth race (two were run in 2011). In 2015, Rahal qualified sixth and set the second-fastest time during the final practice. But he struggled with the handling of his car during the race due to the downforce level the team elected to run en route to a 15th-place finish.

Rahal is ranked 12th in the series standings with 255 points. He trails leader Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske by 132 points (357), second-place Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing by 52 (277) and fifth-place Munoz by 17 (242) after Round 8 of 16. Dixon is the defending event-winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport was third-fastest during “Happy Half-Hour” at 212.918 mph in the No. 28 Honda. Tony Kanaan, winner of the 2004 night race here, was fourth at 212.786 mph in the No. 10 Chevrolet fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Jack Hawksworth broke into the top-five with a lap at 212.604 mph in the No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing Honda.

Reigning Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi, a series rookie, posted a best lap of 210.256 mph in the No. 98 Honda fielded by Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian. Max Chilton was the fastest rookie at 211.990 mph, good for ninth in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. The starting field of 22 drivers ran a combined 897 laps.

Teams will run a systems check at 5 p.m. (EDT). NBC Sports Network will begin its telecast at 8 p.m. and the field will take the green flag at 8:50 p.m.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 10 2016
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