Rahal second in IndyGP as yellow flag costs him shot at race victory

Graham Rahal was denied a probable victory in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis Race 1 as a caution period allowed serial victor Scott Dixon to take a 48th win of his prolific career and second successive win of the 2020 season.

Rahal had started from fourth on the grid but was perhaps fortunate to escape without major damage to his front wing after contact with Jack Harvey at the start.

And, with The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver employing what appeared to be a smart two-stop strategy, it certainly seemed to be the right call – stand-in third teammate Spencer Pigot sweeping past Conor Daly for second a quarter of the way through the 80-lap race.

It proved unlucky for Pigot, as a botched stop cost him valuable time and dropped him down the pack.

“We had a really good handling car and we were making moves and elected for a two-stop strategy so we were saving fuel the whole time and still keeping a good pace throughout the race,” explained Pigot. “We just kept going forward and came out of the pits after the last stop in third, right behind Graham, who was on the podium so it was looking like we could have had two Rahal Letterman Lanigan cars on the podium but unfortunately we had an issue.  It just wasn’t meant to be today but overall I can’t thank everyone on the 45 car enough and the whole team really.”

For Rahal, however, all was still rosy in the garden of Indy, as he re-joined fourth on the longer-running black Firestone tires and with the knowledge that he had only one more stop to make. Yet, in this unpredictable game of motorsport, even the best-laid plans sometimes hit bumps in the road. Unfortunately, for Rahal, that’s exactly what happened when rookie Oliver Askew lost control of his Arrow McLaren SP, sending it careening into the wall and bringing out a yellow flag.

It was just the break that Dixon needed, the New Zealander able to sail past Rahal on a fresh set of reds and escape into the distance, Rahal doing well to fend off a flying Simon Pageneud on wearing rubber but with a vital extra ‘push-to-pass boost’ in his pocket, having conserved more fuel on his strategy.

“I thought the strategy was honestly working perfectly,” said Rahal via his team’s press release. “Honestly, with the two-stop coming out of the pits after the first stop and still being right with Power and Harvey and all the good guys, the guys I was racing at that time, all I kept thinking was when the pits cycled through for the last time, we’d have about a 25- or 30-second lead, but obviously the yellow came out and kind of nullified our strategy because then everybody just got to pit under yellow and then there was just one more to go.

“But obviously, Dixie had tremendous pace during the late part of the race. I was on black tires struggling a little bit. The Fifth Third Bank car was great today. I thought our guys did a tremendous job. It’s a shame for Spencer; he was right up in the battle, as well. But for our team after Dallas, this feels extremely good for us.”

Motorsport Technology