By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal backed up his dominating performance on Saturday with another win on Sunday in the Chevrolet Grand Prix of Detroit doubleheader weekend after starting third.
Rahal was maintaining a lead over Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden after the final round of pit stops but a yellow flag with five laps to go threw a wrench into the plans. James Hinchcliffe suffered a mechanical failure on his No. 5 ARROW Electronics Honda and shortly thereafter, Spencer Pigot’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Chevrolet trailed a massive plume of smoke heading out of Turn 2, prompting IndyCar to throw a red flag.
The race was restarted with two laps to go but Newgarden was never able to get a run on Rahal as the No. 15 Turns for Troops Honda made its way to victory lane over the Penske duo of Newgarden and Will Power.
The race’s major turning point was in the first round of pit stops as Rahal was able to leapfrog Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato after Sato pitted first on Lap 23 with Rahal pitting a lap later.
Rahal led the rest of the way except for two laps during the final sequence of pit stops and dominated both races of the weekend.
“I just felt in control completely every lap. And that does not happen very often,” Rahal said.
“So, you know, it was just a strong weekend. But, again, I say this all the time, you guys have seen this time and time again with Will [Power] and with [Scott] Dixon and all these other guys, you know, when they’re at their best, and the car’s at its best, it’s hard to beat ’em. This weekend I felt like I was at my best and the car was at its best. So we just had a strong performance.
But for sure everything was in the zone. It was nice, you know, for our guys that there was never a pit stop that we had huge pressure. You know, they just could do their thing, be smooth, get a clean stop. We were good. So just all around a great weekend,” Rahal added.
Newgarden had a good car all day but figured a better qualifying position might have helped him get an even better result.
“I think we had a winning car. We started too far back. It really comes down to qualifying on the No. 2 car,” Newgarden said.
“I attribute a lot to my own fault. I had a better lap this morning. I messed up on the final lap. We had some trouble getting up to speed before that with some other things going on.
If we could have qualified in the top five, I think we would have had a better opportunity to maybe race Graham better. Just started too far back,” Newgarden added.