Graham Rahal’s surge in the second half of the Verizon IndyCar Series season continued with an emphatic victory in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Rahal, who started 13th in the 90-lap race in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, corralled his second victory of the season and third of his Indy car career.
The New Albany, Ohio, native closed to within nine points of Verizon IndyCar Series championship front-runner Juan Pablo Montoya with two races left in the season. There are a total of 10 drivers still mathematically eligible for the championship and the chance to hoist the Astor Cup at season’s end.
Since earning his first victory of the season June 27 at Auto Club Speedway – his first win since March 2008 – Rahal has placed third, fourth and first to challenge for his first series title.
Rahal’s father, Bob, a co-owner of Graham’s team, won the Indy car races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 1985 and ’86.
“This track has been special for the Rahal family going back to the days of Jim Trueman,” said Graham Rahal, who wore an Ohio State University football-themed helmet. “Jim was the man who founded this place, got this place going. He was also the one who got my dad started in racing.
“I grew up at this place, running around when my dad was racing. It’s come full circle.”
Rahal is the eighth different winner in nine road/street course races this season. He picked up the lead for good on Lap 67 when the lead pack of cars, including race leader Montoya, pitted under caution for their final fuel/tire service.
That caution resulted from a single-car spin by rookie Sage Karam, whose No. 8 car stalled on track. INDYCAR stewards announced the spin would be subject to a post-race review.
Rahal then fended off Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon on a Lap 84 restart on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course following a full-course caution and went on to win by 3.4 seconds.
Wilson, who started 14th in the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda, placed a season-high second. Pagenaud also was a big mover in the race, advancing 12 positions relative to his starting spot in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet to finish third – matching his best finish of the season from Belle Isle-1. Dixon, a five-time winner at Mid-Ohio, started from the pole and finished fourth in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. He is 25 points behind Rahal in the title chase.
Montoya, who started 10th in the No. 2 Hawk Performance Team Penske Chevrolet and led 21 laps in the middle of the race, finished 12th.
“Everyone on the Hawk Performance Chevy did an amazing job,” said Montoya, who has topped the standings since winning the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. “We did everything we were supposed to do today and the race was playing out perfectly for us. Unfortunately, we got a caution with about 25 laps to go that we didn’t need. It worked out for some and didn’t work out for others. But we had a great car and we still have the points lead. Ready for Pocono where we won last year.”
The next race on the schedule is the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on Aug. 23. The season wraps up a week later with the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, which offers double points.