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Rahal Pulls Out Dramatic Win At ‘The Resumption’

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 28 2016
The sparks flew as Graham Rahal changed to a narrow victory in Saturday night's IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The race began in but was interrupted by rain and was finished on Saturday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

The sparks flew as Graham Rahal charged to a narrow victory in Saturday night’s IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. The race began in June but was interrupted by rain and was finished on Saturday. (Photos courtesy of INDYCAR)

Three-wide, four-wide and with sparks flying, Graham Rahal won the 20th annual Firestone 600 (The Resumption) Verizon IndyCar Series race Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway after leading the equivalent of two football fields.

bugindycarRahal completed a dramatic, last-lap pass of leader James Hinchcliffe to win by a miniscule 0.0080-seconds _ the closest race in Texas Motor Speedway history and the fifth-closest in Indy car history.

The previous squeaker at TMS was recorded in 2002 when Sam Hornish Jr. edged Helio Castroneves by 0.0096-seconds, which had been the closest of all major racing series to have competed at the venue in Fort Worth prior to Saturday night.

The 248th and final lap was the lone circuit Rahal led around TMS’ high-banked, 1.5-mile quadoval en route to earning his first win since Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, last August.

“I led 200 yards. That’s all I needed,” Rahal quipped after “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race” was delayed 76-days by rainouts on June 11 and 12. “I didn’t want to go through this year without a win. On that last yellow, I was telling myself, ‘This could be my chance, you’d better get it done.’ We’re just lucky it all worked out.”

The scintillating finish was set up by the fourth and final caution when Englishman Jack Hawksworth of A.J. Foyt Racing and Russian Mikhail Aleshin of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports made contact in Turn 4 on Lap 232. Tony Kanaan had the lead at that point, but was the only driver among the top-five to head into the pits for fresh Firestone tires; the popular Brazilian restarted fourth.

Hinchcliffe, who led a race-high 188 laps, regained the lead for the restart with nine laps to go and

Winner Graham Rahal had a lot to smile about after Saturday's race at TMS.

Winner Graham Rahal had a lot to smile about after Saturday’s race at TMS.

was followed by Rahal, Castroneves, Kanaan and Verizon IndyCar Series championship leader Simon Pagenaud. The closing laps were spectacularly tight, with the lead pack fanning-out three and four-wide at times and nearly touching wheels at some point down the backstretch and into the 24-degree banked turns.

 Hinchcliffe fended them all off until the final lap, when Rahal got a run on him low exiting Turn 4 and edged the Canadian down the inside lane at the finish line. The only lap Rahal led served as redemption for the win he let get away at TMS in 2012. Rahal was leading during the waning laps when he brushed the wall and allowed the late Justin Wilson to pass him and claim the victory.

“It means the world to me,” said Rahal, the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Rahal, who also is his car-owner. “In all honesty I was thinking about (Bryan) Clauson but more importantly I was thinking about Justin because he and I had a great battle here a few years ago and he got me at the end. I kept thinking about him the last few laps. I definitely miss that guy. He was a great human being and a hell of a race car driver.”

Clauson, 27, died on Aug. 7 from injuries sustained in a crash the night before at the Belleville Nationals Midget race on the half-mile Kansas dirt oval.

Wilson died on Aug. 24, 2015 from head injuries suffered when he was struck by a piece of bodywork the day before at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The Englishman was 37.

Rahal became the 14th driver to win an Indy car race by leading only the last lap and the first to do

Charlie Kimball and Mikhail Aleshin go wheel to wheel in Texas.

Charlie Kimball and Mikhail Aleshin go wheel to wheel in Texas.

it since Hinchcliffe at Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2013.

“I knew I was going to have to try to fake Hinch to the top side because there was only one way to actually clear him, which was to the bottom,” said Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. “I was just very lucky it worked and I have to thank Hinch a lot because he gave me some good room at the bottom and it didn’t end up in tears.

“James did a great job tonight and in all honesty he deserved to win this thing; he led from start to finish.  You’ve just got to lead that last lap. I knew I couldn’t get him on the high side, everybody kept pushing me way up into the wall even if we were three-wide.  They were still just coming on up the track. It was pretty intense.

“I tell you what, if Texas Motor Speedway fans didn’t love that, then they don’t love racing because that was by far the best thing we’ve seen here.”

Kanaan, of Chip Ganassi Racing, finished third to earn the 76th podium finish of his stellar 19-year Indy car career (11th on the all-time list).

“It took some old-school Texas right there. It was a good night,” said Kanaan, driver of the No. 10 NTT Data Chevrolet. “We started way in the back and we had to make up positions right away, so we did. I think with INDYCAR not changing the rules, having a day race, we had a ton of downforce in the car, all of us, and then doing the race, too, at night, it made the field a lot closer, as you could see. I had to dig into my hard drive and remember how to do pack racing again, and it worked out pretty well.

“Big props to the guys in front _ Simon, Hinch, Graham. We gave each other room, and that’s why we all finished the way we did, so it’s always a pleasure to race like that.”

Pagenaud took fourth while Team Penske teammate Castroneves rounded out the top-five. The Brazilian was the last driver on the lead lap.

“Wow, that was exciting!” said Pagenaud, the Frenchman specifically referring to the four-wide battle during the closing laps. “I don’t think I have any breath left. I thought we were going to get

Graham Rahal emerged as the winner of Saturday night's IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Graham Rahal emerged as the winner of Saturday night’s IndyCar Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

it, but when it went four-wide I got touched and pushed into (Hinchcliffe) and I had to back out of it or there was going to be a big wreck.”

Pagenaud extended his championship lead from 20 to 28 points over closest pursuer and Penske teammate Will Power of Australia, who finished eighth. Only road-races at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International on Sept. 4 and Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway on Sept. 18 remain on the schedule. 

The Firestone 600 was “The Resumption” of the race that was postponed Saturday, June 11, due to weather and rescheduled for the following day. A total of 71 of the scheduled 248 laps were run June 12 before the race was suspended due to inclement weather. The race resumed on Lap 72 with Hinchcliffe leading the field to the green.

The race was restarted with 20 of the original 22 cars competing. Josef Newgarden of Ed Carpenter Racing and Conor Daly of Dale Coyne Racing crashed on Lap 42 on June 12. INDYCAR officials ruled the two ineligible for “The Resumption” because their damaged cars could not have been repaired that day.

Eight drivers swapped the lead 14 times throughout the 248 laps (including the June portion), with Hinchcliffe pacing 188 in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. Hinchcliffe wasn’t consoled by that fact or by his best finish of the season and best since he won at NOLA Motorsports Park in April 2015.

“When we cleared Tony and it was just me and Graham coming down to the checkered, I thought the momentum is on the outside,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel like I’ve kind of seen it here 10 times before in races in years past, and I thought we were still going to be able to do it.

“But, man, he rolled through the center of (Turns) 3 and 4 with a whole lot of speed. I hadn’t been next to a car all night that cleared me that quickly. That was the time to make that move. It’s just tough having a car like that and leading that many laps, but not the one that counted.”

Nine drivers remain mathematically eligible for the 2016 championship heading into next weekend’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at The Glen _ Pagenaud, Power, 2004 series champion Kanaan, Castroneves, Newgarden, four-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Rahal, Hinchcliffe and Carlos Munoz of Andretti Autosport.

Television coverage from historic WGI will begin at 2 p.m. (EDT) Sept. 4 on NBC Sports Network and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

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Results of the 20th annual Firestone 600 (The Resumption) Verizon IndyCar Series event Saturday night around the 1.455-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, aero kit-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (13) Graham Rahal, Honda, 248, Running
2. (10) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 248, Running 
3. (8) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 248, Running
4. (6) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 248, Running
5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 248, Running
6. (15) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 247, Running
7. (1) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 247, Running
8. (7) Will Power, Chevrolet, 247, Running
9. (17) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 246, Running
10. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 246, Running
11. (9) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 246, Running
12. (12) Marco Andretti, Honda, 245, Running
13. (11) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 245, Running
14. (22) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 245, Running
15. (19) Max Chilton, Chevrolet, 243, Running
16. (16) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 231, Contact 
17. (20) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 227, Contact
18. (14) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 223, Contact
19. (2) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 211, Contact 
20. (4) Takuma Sato, Honda, 160, Mechanical 
21. (21) Conor Daly, Honda, 42, Contact
22. (5) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 41, Contact

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed:  144.901 mph
Time of Race: 02:29:24.8886
Margin of victory: 0.0080-seconds
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. 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 28 2016
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