Strategy, pace and great fuel mileage — Graham Rahal had all three locked in Sunday afternoon. But the luck it takes to win Indianapolis wasn’t part of that package
Pitting from the lead on Lap 116, Rahal was accelerating out of the pit lane in Turn 2 when his left-rear wheel came off and sent him into the wall and out of his best chance ever for victory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“We were in the perfect spot — we had them today,” said Rahal after his ride to the infield hospital. “We were right where we needed to be.”
Starting 18th in the United Rentals Honda, the 32-year-old veteran made great mileage early and leap-frogged his way into the top 10 when the first caution waved on Lap 34 for Stefan Wilson’s accident in the pits. Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi were forced to make emergency stops as they ran out of fuel and that effectively ruined their races but Rahal pounced on the opportunity and pitted under yellow and moved from 17th to ninth.
Rahal’s mileage was untouchable as he went longer than anyone all day and his speed improved with his positioning. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 79 and that put him in the front scrum to stay.
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“Our strategy got us right where we needed to be and I was fuel saving and we were just cruising,” he lamented.
It was going to get real interesting at the end because Rahal would have undoubtedly stopped last and not needed much fuel to race for the checker.
“I’m sorry for our team and my sponsors we didn’t win this thing — because we should have,” he said. “We had ’em today.”