Graham Rahal has achieved a difficult victory in a race that is already written in the history of IndyCar. Record for lead changes, five cars in parallel in a curve and unfortunately accidents. All this combination has enabled Rahal achieve the first victory in the IndyCar since 2008. Andretti and Kanaan close the podium. Power and Castroneves have abandoned due to accidents and leave Montoya all alone in the lead.
Indycar in Fontana, one of the circuits where the radiators are more soiled and where cars have to endure very high temperatures. In recent years, the Auto Club Speedway has hosted the final race of the championship in an evening round, today was not the case.
Before having the green flag, Gabby Chaves (Bryan Herta Autosport) began to have problems with the radio. And unlike other years, the start was in rows of 2 and not 3 cars each one, with Pagenaud and Castroneves in the front row, but the French lost the lead that took Castroneves followed by Andretti in the start.
2-3 rolled parallel group where Castroneves, Andretti and Montoya (Andretti Autosport) exchanged the lead with Carpenter (CFH Racing) and Kanaan (Chip Ganassi Racing), but the positions were changing very fast. Only Pippa Mann (Dale Coyne Racing) and Stefano Coletti (KV Racing Technology) got rid of this group.
By the twentieth lap, the group was reduced to the top 11, but a fight in the first place focused on Kanaan and Andretti. This struggle also helped Sage Karam (Chip Ganassi Racing) to lead his first lap in IndyCar, the first rookie of the year to do so.
Coletti opened the window of the first of six planned pit stops, soon after leaders like Kanaan would do the same. A pit stops where Power and Castroneves from Penske suffered problems. And again, for the fourth time this year, a mechanic from Dale Coyne Racing team was hit by Tristan Vautier while changing tires. But the ranking was the same, the most remarkable fact was the loss of positions for Kanaan and the improvement by Sato (AJ Foyt Enterprises), taking the lead for a few laps.
Before the second stop also start by Coletti, Takuma Sato was the one who most laps had led the race, not an imaginable pace earlier in the season, by a Honda. Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing) had power problems in the pit stop, causing him to lose 3 places in the place where he won the 2013 championship.
After this pit stop, Power and Castroneves who had problems at the first stop, got the lead of the race ahead to Kanaan and Sato, but the group did not take too long to compact the top 10. The “same” two drivers from Roger Penske team were engaged in a fight face to face before the third pit stop, as it was lived here last year for the fight for the 2014 championship.
On lap 107, Kanaan and Castroneves were the first to complete a third pit stop. Everything was the same, but it is emphasized the improvement of Andretti Autosport from Carlos Muñoz and Ryan Hunter-Reay that almost impacted with a very aggressive Graham Rahal (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing), but the most surprising of all was that mid-race came without “pace car” and that the group to complete the 250 miles was more compact than ever, with 15 of 23 drivers fighting for victory. A union group led by the return of the Honda.
On lap 136, Castroneves lost the lead and then suffered an accident in touch with Ryan Briscoe (Peterson Schmidt Motorsport) when he left him no space to move. The Brazilian suffered a spin and he stopped the car, causing the first pace car of the race.
If you think that the accident of Castroneves had served for something, the answer is no. 7 laps later, the two drivers of CFH Racing had to leave after an accident: Carpenter had not left enough space to Newgarden, staging a major comeback, as we mentioned earlier. Power took advantage of this situation to stop in boxes and change the strategy. Before the accident, Briscoe took his penalty.
The green flag came again around lap 168 with a calmer group which was uncommon to see, rows of 4 drivers as before until Sato became the leader. Although the leader who had controlled the race at that time was Power, with the fifth stop already made. A fifth stop that Muñoz made within the “normal”. In this situation and with everyone stopping, Rahal took refueling hose in a strange maneuver into the track and this caused the yellow flag for the third time.
Of course some drivers took advantage for a sixth stop as the case of Power or Briscoe, who had made an incredible comeback after the penalty. This left the lead of the race for the Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya.
The competition returned to its greatest exponent, when there were 51 laps to finish. A spectacular fight which we saw before the last stop. We got to see up to 5 cars in parallel in Turn 3. Simply one of the most exciting races of the season where the one on one between Power and Andretti was consolidated before the last stop, and would be done under the pace car.
A pace car coming out on track in the absence of 30 laps for the fourth time because of a piece rear spoiler detached from the car of Muñoz by a touch with Scott Dixon. Power was the leader of the race followed by Andretti and Rahal.
The race resumed with a new record with 23 intense laps for the final, being already the race with more changes in the leadership of the history of IndyCar.
A restart with constant changes of position and 5 drivers in parallel on each curve. Power had apparently controlled leadership. But although he felt good in this circuit, Briscoe could beat him with 16 laps to go.
Briscoe was overtaken almost 3 laps later by Sato, the Japanese luckily avoided a touch that might have been the end of his race. But the inevitable is inevitable. Power and Sato stayed out of the race, under enormous resignation from Power. Sato had lost control for some seconds, but a touch with Dixon caused this accident, which can be very important for the resolution of the championship.
The commissioners decided to stop the race in the absence of 5 laps. Graham Rahal lead ahead of Briscoe, Kanaan, Dixon, Montoya, Pagenaud and Karam.
Some drivers when the yellow flag again stopped in boxes to put new tires to fight for the race with three laps to go.
The green flag again and Rahal kept indoors but Kanaan did not give up and tried the inside line to overtake. Andretti tried on the inside but would not let him, before Hunter-Reay lost control of his car, and slammed into Briscoe who came out flying and hitting against the lawn of the first corner. A very violent accident to the New Zealander who got out unharmed from the accident that was at first caused by the touch of Hunter-Reay, Karam and Montoya.
This allowed Graham Rahal to get a much sought victory. This is the second victory in the IndyCar, the first of the season. Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti completed the podium. Montoya finished fourth and extends the distance in the championship on Power. Dixon who was third, finished sixth, just behind the rookie, Sage Karam who in fifth place, gets his best finish in IndyCar.
The next round of the Verizon IndyCar Series will be in two weeks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, another oval, but one of the so-called “short ovals” requiring the aerodynamic pack of urban and permanent circuits.
|Pos.||Car #||Driver||Manufacturer||Laps||Running / Reason Out|
|4||2||Juan Pablo Montoya||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|5||8||Sage Karam (R)||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|11||4||Stefano Coletti (R)||Chevrolet||250||Running|
|20||98||Gabby Chaves (R)||Honda||237||Running|