Honda’s leading driver at the high-speed Road America circuit spent most of his day locked in a battle with Chevy-powered drivers, and after taking a strong third-place finish, Graham Rahal admitted feeling a bit envious of the top speed displayed by his rivals.
“He just had more top speed,” Rahal said of a failed attempt to overtake Tony Kanaan’s No. 10 Chevy at the end of the long front straight. “I don’t know what to tell you. It happened to me three times today. Obviously, I was around all our competitors, no other Hondas, and [Chevy’s] got some power, that’s for sure. They’ve got some top speed. It is what it is.
Rahal also said data from qualifying showed the top speed disparity between his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda and the best of the Bowties.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads down – we’ve got what we’ve got, and if you look to my sector times yesterday in qualifying, I was three tenths off and every single tenth was on the straightaways,” he said. “We knew this going into today. [RLL race engineer] Eddie [Jones] and I talked before the race on the downforce level and just determined we had to do what we had to do to take care of our tires and try to be most consistent, and we were. But I mean, at the end, we pushed as hard as we could. It’s just I got next to [Kanaan], and when I pulled out, he left me in my dust.
Honda’s Ryan Hunter-Reay followed Rahal home in fourth, which matches the 3-4 the Japanese brand earned at the previous natural road course race in Indianapolis. Although Chevy’s Will Power dominated qualifying and the race for Team Penske, Rahal reckons his Honda was just as capable of running at the front of the field.
“I don’t think Will’s pace was much better than us, it was just that we got behind on the first stint, and then we just stayed the same,” he explained. “I mean, we were trying to catch him. TK and I would claw up to him a little bit on a lap and then I could see both of us fell back a little bit. My guys were giving me his lap times over the radio. We were doing pretty much the same, but we lost that distance in the first stint, and it pretty much stayed right there.”
Rahal will need all of Honda’s available top speed as the series moves to Iowa’s bullring oval. Eighth in the championship standings, only Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz (seventh) is higher for Honda, but with only seven rounds left to go, numerous wins will be required to challenge the solid block of Chevy drivers from first to sixth.