Graham Rahal was very clear on Saturday after qualifying. He said they could do it, and that they would be there in the end. It’s not exactly Babe Ruth calling his shot in the batter’s box, but it’s close. Wearing his Ohio State football-themed helmet, Graham drove from 13th starting position all the way to Victory Lane on Sunday, in his home state of Ohio. There was a Steak ‘N Shake treat and another helmet sticker waiting for him as he earned his second win of the season for the single-car RLL team.
Justin Wilson earned a runner-up finish for Andretti Autosport, and Simon Pagenaud captured his second podium finish of the season. Mr Mid-Ohio himself, Scott Dixon finished fourth, and teammate Tony Kanaan rounded out the top five. Pagenaud was the only Team Penske driver to finish in the top ten, while all four Andretti Autosport cars finished inside of the top ten. Seven of the top ten finishers were Honda-powered machines.
There were many story lines within the race, but none bigger than Rahal winning the race and closing the championship race dramatically. Juan Montoya has led the championship ever since the first race of the season, but after an 11th place finish today, his lead has been trimmed to just nine points heading into the final two races of the season. The good news for him is that the next race is at Pocono, where he won from pole position last year. The season-ending race at Sonoma is a double-points paying event, so the title is still very much up in the air.
Tristan Vautier had a fantastic finish for Dale Coyne Racing, finishing sixth, and Ryan Hunter-Reay came home seventh. Jack Hawksworth earned AJ Foyt Racing a top ten result, and Carlos Munoz and Marco Andretti rounded out the top ten on Sunday. After finishing on the lead lap again today, Marco has completed all 1,947 laps this season. He is the only driver to do so, and has just two more races to complete. The last driver to complete every lap of competition in an entire IndyCar season, was Tony Kanaan in 2004.
Things didn’t go so well for Will Power, as he finished 14th. For the third straight year, Power failed to lead a lap at Mid-Ohio, despite starting on the front row today. His teammate Helio Castroneves finished behind him in 15th, which really hurts them in the championship. Sebastien Bourdais also had a disappointing afternoon, as he finished 17th after starting in third position.
Sage Karam gained another enemy on Sunday, adding to his collection over the last few weeks. Following the Ed Carpenter confrontation at Iowa, the Rookie received some harsh words from Rahal after getting in his way during qualifying yesterday. Karam had a late race spin in the race, which essentially ruined Montoya’s race, as he was leading at the time. Rahal and others had already made their pit stops. According to IndyCar series officials, there will be a post-race review for Karam’s incident.
Montoya addressed the situation after the race, saying: “You know, it’s kind of weird that all the Ganassi cars pitted and Sage spins. So it is what it is. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not, but I hear the spin was really dodgy.” In a TV interview walking from his car, Montoya was visibly beyond frustrated.
Rahal barely edged out Dixon and Montoya for leading the most laps (23 to 22 to 21) which earned him a bonus point. The American driver is just nine points behind Montoya, and he knows his team has all of the momentum they need. Rahal’s last four races have resulted in finishes of 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 1st. Graham was incredibly excited after climbing out of the car. “I grew up at this place, running around when my dad was racing. It’s come full circle.”
Here is what the top of the championship standings look like heading into the final two races of the season:
- Juan Montoya
- Graham Rahal -9
- Scott Dixon -34
- Helio Castroneves -58
- Will Power -59
Despite the incredible momentum the series has, we’ve now got an extended break on our hands. The next race on the schedule is the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono on August 23. That is three weeks from today. It will be the final “oval” race of the year, as the season will end the following week at Sonoma. NBC Sports Network will provide coverage for the race at the Tricky Triangle, which begins at 2 PM ET on Sunday. Montoya is the defending pole and race winner.
Below are highlights of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio, courtesy of IndyCar.
Will Power: “The Verizon Chevy didn’t have a great start today as we had some contact there in the early laps and did some damage to the front wing. We had to come in early and have a long pit stop that put us way behind. It put us at the back of the field, but we had a really fast car. We were able to push ourselves up a few spots and we got lucky with that first caution, which put us in the top five. We had a pretty good shot for a podium finish there from that point until that last caution. If it had just stayed green we would have had a good recovery on our hands. Things just didn’t go our way in the end. We’ll just keep our heads up and look forward to Pocono.”
Juan Montoya: “Everyone on the Hawk Performance Chevy did an amazing job today. From where we were on Friday to today was a huge difference. We did everything we were supposed to do today and the race was playing out perfectly for us. Unfortunately we got a caution with about 25 laps to go that we didn’t need. It worked out for some and didn’t work out for others. But we had a great car and we still have the points lead. Ready for Pocono, where we won last year.”
Helio Castroneves: “We had a great race today. The Hitachi Chevy guys did one heck of a job for me and Roger (Penske, race strategist) put us in great position to capitalize. There was a lot going on out there today, a lot of traffic. We had a great Hitachi Chevy but, unfortunately, the strategy didn’t play out for us. I wish there weren’t two weeks off before we go to Pocono because I really want to get back on the track soon.”
Sage Karam: “It was a big learning experience for me today. When strategy doesn’t fall your way, it makes it even tougher on the team. The biggest thing today I learned was fuel saving. I was able to get better fuel mileage and get better lap times, which was a plus for me. Just really bummed for the mistake I made going into Turns 4-5. I was adjusting my brake bias and missed the apex to the corner and that was it. I was coming into the pits that lap as well. The car was pretty quick all day and who knows what we could have done if we stayed on the lead lap there. If the cautions fell our way a little, maybe we could’ve gotten up there toward the front.”
Scott Dixon: “It’s tough when everyone has the same pace and everyone is on the same tire. With the new aero kits, there’s just such a big wake behind the cars and it sometimes makes it tough to get around people. We were trying to line up for that last restart there and the leader went way early there. Not a bad day for the Target car overall in the points and (we) moved up a bit in the championship race.”
Tony Kanaan: “The NTT Data Chevrolet was fast today – we just had a hard time making many passes out there with how tight everyone was. There were so many strategies in play and the yellows were throwing everyone’s original game plan off. We were consistent all race and we just worked hard to get up toward the front. I’m happy for Graham’s (Rahal) win today, especially with it being his hometown. We have a lot of work to do, but we have some time before Pocono to really figure out where we need to be.”
Sebastien Bourdais: “Obviously a very disappointing day for the Hydroxycut Chevy car. We did what we had to do early on. We were saving fuel, then as usual the guys in the back pitted early and started exposing us. So we started to run quick and as soon as we turned the wick up, a yellow came out. We pitted and cycled to the back. After that, the race was pretty much over. But not only did it happen once, it happen twice when they closed the pits a second time for the (Sage) Karam incident. It’s disappointing because the car was good and the KVSH Racing team executed all weekend, but we ended up losing precious championship points. On days like this, you just have to move on and keep at it. We will go on to Pocono and see what we can do.”
Takuma Sato: “A very disappointing race. We took an early pit stop because this track is so difficult to overtake and the alternate strategy opens up some opportunities. Unfortunately we had an incident with (Stefano) Coletti, who tried to overtake me and clipped my rear wing and damaged it. We had to come back to replace the entire rear assembly. Something happened and it took too long, so we went down a couple laps. It’s very difficult to recover from that. In the end we ran wide, went off track and damaged the rear bumper, and we had to retire. Very disappointing but hopefully we will be strong in the last two races.”
Graham Rahal: “Honestly, if I’d won a lot of races in my career but I never won this one, I think I’d be pretty disappointed. For the Rahals, when it goes back to Jim Trueman and everyone else, this track has been pretty special to us for so, so many years. Jim was the man who founded this place, got this place going. He was also the one who got my dad started in racing. It’s come full circle. I used to go to the Steak ‘ Shake about 5 to 8 miles from here and play around, eat a lot of cheese fries and stuff. It’s funny how this whole thing has come together. I’ve got the Buckeye helmet; this is all amazing. The tires were awesome; reds, blacks, it didn’t matter for me. Used reds were good for me, particularly at the end, I was just able to just absolutely gap anyone I needed to at the end. I didn’t have any push-to-passes left on that last restart so I was pretty nervous (Justin) Wilson would get me.”
Tristan Vautier: “Coming home sixth today is great for me and for the team. I had a blast out there; the car was good. We had a really fast car. I was able to put in some very good lap times while saving some fuel. It was great to be able to lead some laps with such a good race car. I am really thankful to Dale (Coyne) for having me in the car. It is an awesome group of people. (The team) is a small group of great people and I am having a blast this year. It was a really good job by Honda to have such good fuel mileage and great performance. Overall, it was a great end to our race weekend.”
Luca Filippi: “It was looking very good, but everything that could go wrong today happened to us. If there had been an asteroid crashing down somewhere in the world, it would have been on my car. I can say I am glad I didn’t get struck by lightning or hit by that asteroid and I can go home safe and sound. For the race, I think we were very fast. We probably had the second or third fastest lap of the race. We were running fourth when the yellow came out at the wrong time. We still had a good strategy, at the end we were just managing the fuel we had and hitting that number we wanted to. Unfortunately, there was a mistake in the calculation and we ran out of fuel. I did everything I could and the team did everything they could to get me as many positions as they could. It was just a very unfortunate situation. I think we have to be pleased with our pace today.”
Simon Pagenaud: “It was a great day for the PPG Chevy, really. We had the roughest weekend of all. We had some mechanical issues earlier in the weekend, and Chevy and the whole team put a new engine in the back of the car for qualifying and then it was good. It’s funny how it works. We qualified badly and then we have a podium (finish). Good day, good day for the guys, it’s uplifting. We bounced back and congratulations to Graham Rahal.”
Justin Wilson: “It feels great to get a second place. I was pushing like hell to try and get past Graham (Rahal) on that restart; I knew I couldn’t lean on him or bang wheels with him – he’s a Honda driver going for the championship, so that was in the back of my mind. At the same time, I wanted to push him as hard as I could, make him honest and make him earn it. He did a fantastic job today. I had one more push-to-pass left but Graham was too quick. All the credit to him today because he was on fire. We pushed as hard as we could. I have to thank everyone at Andretti Autosport and Honda for all the work they’ve done. I’m pleased to get Honda a 1-2 finish at their home track.”
Carlos Munoz: “A good comeback for us to finish in the top 10 – we finished ninth. I think the last yellow didn’t help us; if it hadn’t gone yellow, I think we would have finished much further (up on the grid). Again, a great job for the team strategy-wise. We went to the front in the race again, so we really have to think about what’s happening in qualifying because it’s not normal to start so far back and finish ninth. Now we think about Pocono – it’s one of my favorite tracks and I have a lot of good memories there.”
Marco Andretti: “We finished 10th – worst of the team, so it wasn’t the best day. We tried to salvage, we were the best of the cars on my strategy. We just got kind of screwed on our strategy.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay: “We had a good car, had a great race. The early yellow that Graham (Rahal) really got lucky on really killed our day, so we had to fight back from there. It was a good fight back, finishing seventh considering how badly the strategy went for us, how badly the yellows fell. It was a good day for the No. 28 DHL Honda.”
Jack Hawksworth: “It was a long race with lots going on. We couldn’t catch a break at the start and then we were running ninth when the caution bit us and we cycled to the back. The car was OK once the tires came in, but we struggled on the initial start and restarts because we didn’t have as much grip as we did in practice. So we have to look into that. But we hung in there all day and it was one of those days where it could have all gone wrong, but we got a break with the caution at the end, passed a couple cars and got a top-10 finish. So it’s good to get some points.”
Josef Newgarden: “It was a tough day. Sometimes it is your day and sometimes it’s not. Today just wasn’t our day, that’s what it comes down to. Things play out for you sometimes and today didn’t play out for us strategy-wise. It was no real fault of our own, we just got unlucky. We had the pace and we had a good car, it was a good effort all weekend. It’s disappointing, but we’ll go on to the next one and hopefully take a shot at another victory in Pocono.”
Charlie Kimball: “Obviously I’m really disappointed. The No. 83 NovoLog FlexPen Chevrolet was really good all weekend – the Chip Ganassi Racing cars are always good here at Mid-Ohio. I had really hoped to repeat the performance of 2013 and be in Victory Lane, but we just kept getting run into today. A lot of the things we could control we did well, but there were a lot more things that we couldn’t control and didn’t go our way. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the great thing about the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing team: We’re really resilient. We’ll dig in and bounce back for the 500-mile race in Pocono and then finish out the season strong with double points on the ‘Best Coast.'”
Gabby Chaves: “We had a really good strategy, the car felt pretty strong. I was trying to charge, I was trying to be aggressive and the second-to-last restart, restarting from seventh, I got a good run on the fifth- and sixth- place guys. I had a line on the outside and I just got squeezed, got left no room there. You know it’s a bit of dirty driving from the other drivers, I did put myself in a tough situation, so I could’ve done it a little bit different. I am still happy with the way the race went. We had a strong car out there today, so I’m very glad with all my crew and the No. 98 Bowers & Wilkins, Castrol Edge car. I’m very proud of them.”
Race Photos via IndyCar