Graham Rahal brings his dismal season to life with a dominating performance at Belle Isle winning the first race of the weekends double header. Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe round out the podium making it all Honda at Chevrolet’s home race.
Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves led the field to green with the only incident being James Hinchcliffe having a spin coming out of turn 1. Hinchcliffe avoided disaster but a full course yellow would come out.
On the restart Rahal kept the advantage out front while Andretti teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay battled for eleventh position. Both drivers pit coming with Andretti pitting first and Hunter-Reay coming in the next lap. The teammates both got out ahead of Tony Kanaan who had been a head of the pair.
Josef Newgarden would come in to pit on lap 10 being the first front runner to do so. His teammate and second place driver Helio Castroneves pit on lap 12 going with the 3 stop strategy.
Rahal continued to lead putting 11 seconds on second place Alexander Rossi. Scott Dixon, Will Power, and Conor Daly followed Rossi until lap 22 when Rossi pit following Rahal in. Castroneves and Newgarden would end up 1-2 with Rahal 6 seconds behind.
Charlie Kimball and Conor Daly helped bring out the next caution with collision that saw Daly out of the race and Kimball needing a new wing. Under caution Andretti, Hunter-Reay, Munoz, and Kanaan all pit while the leaders stayed out with Castroneves leading.
On the restart the the positions remained unchanged except for Penske teammates Will Power and Simon Pagenaud battling. Power got the better of Pagenaud with the reigning champ also losing positions to Max Chilton and JR Hildebrand.
Castroneves and Newgarden both pit giving the lead back to Rahal. Rahal would have a 4 second lead over Takuma Sato who saved fuel along with the others on the 2 stop strategy. Newgarden began making his way back up to the front due to his strategy giving fresh rubber over everyone else.
Rahal would make his last stop on lap 48 with Rossi following him in. James Hinchcliffe who had spun on the first lap came in the lap after Rahal and Rossi. Rahal retained the lead with Dixon in second and Hinchcliffe in third. Rahal pulled a 9 second lead on Dixon until later on when the gap began to shrink.
Takuma Sato who was saving fuel pit late for just a quick splash. The stop would send the Indy 500 champ back to eighth place.
Though Dixon came within 6 seconds of Rahal it was not enough to catch the Ohio native who would take his fifth career win and first win of the season.
Esteban Gutierrez making his debut for Dale Coyne Racing finished nineteenth 1 lap down. His teammate Ed Jones once again impressed finishing in the ninth position. Scott Dixon takes title lead with his second place finish while Castroneves and Pagenaud lose out and fall.
Image Credit – www.indycar.com – Chris Owens