Graham Rahal emerged victorious after a nail-biting final segment of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, which resumed after rains interrupted the race in June. The Verizon IndyCar Series did not disappoint under the lights as both literal and proverbial sparks erupted on the racing surface. James Hinchcliffe finished second in his Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, just .008 seconds behind Rahal’s Honda-powered Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing machine. Tony Kanaan finished on the final step of the podium in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Top 5.
After being rained-out during the original June 11 weekend, INDYCAR and Texas Motor Speedway elected to restart the Firestone 600 this weekend, a two and a half month pause on the 248-lap race. James Hinchliffe led the field to the green on Lap 72 and was challenged early on by Ryan Hunter-Reay, who experienced handling issues and ended up three laps down.
Hinchcliffe led a strong first stint, throwing the hammer down until late-race cautions packed the field up. Hinchlcliffe’s performance was so dominant that only four cars remained on the Lead Lap of the race before the first of three cautions in the final portion.
The second Full Couse Yellow of the race came out after Ed Carpenter and Scott Dixon made contact on the front stretch. Visibly displeased after climbing out of his Chevrolet, Dixon’s race ended early as Carpenter was able to continue on – but not for long.
Green flag racing resumed on Lap 221 for a 27-lap shootout, but two late-race cautions flew after a couple of drivers lost control coming out of Turn 4. Ed Carpenter bobbled after hitting a bump, which sent him back into Castroneves, ending his day early. Castroneves was able to continue after replacing the front wing on his Penske Chevrolet.
Just a few laps later Mikhail Aleshin spun on his own, collecting Jack Hawksworth. The incident occurred just after Aleshin earned his lap back, fighting with Hinchcliffe. Both Hondas were done for the day.
With less than 10 laps to go, the Green Flag waved for the last time. The final battle for the dual pistols culminated in Hinchcliffe’s defense of his early race dominance against the likes of Rahal, Kanaan and Pagenaud. The quartet put on one of the best shows of the season, at one point going 4-wide for the lead. With just four laps to go, Rahal bounced off the two Chevrolets of Kanaan and Castroneves, an incident he later blamed Castroneves for. The American driver was able to hold it together for a final fight with Hinchcliffe.
Rahal’s move was perfectly timed for the win – he patiently and purposely waited for the final lap to make his move on the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver. Rahal was able to get around Hinchcliffe and began to celebrate coming to the line – almost too soon. Hinchcliffe’s final charge was good enough to rebound him beside Rahal, but not so much to edge him ahead. Just .008 seconds was the gap between the two, striving for their first win of the season.
“There’s no describing it,” said Hinchcliffe after the race. “The car was a rocket-ship, but those yellows at the end just killed us.”
Pagenaud’s points lead was narrowly expanded, from 20 points to 28, after making up 11 positions after the restart. Championship-chaser, Will Power, finished outside the Top 2 for the first time after Detroit, despite restarting in fourth. With double points awarded at the end of the season and two rounds left, the championship is still up for grabs.
The Verizon IndyCar Series resumes competition in just a week’s time at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Glen on September 4 at Watkins Glen International. The NBCSN broadcast will start at 2:00 PM ET. Practice kicks off September 2 at 11:00 AM ET and can be watched live on NBCSN.
Featured Image: Chris Jones