This article was originally published on MTAF Wheels, which is now dark. Thank you for enjoying it here through the Live Full Throttle Archives.
I am a fan of the underdog. Always have been.
I like going to see bands that no one has heard of, I like rooting for my Cleveland Indians even though the rest of the world thinks it’s pointless. It’s so excited when the underdog makes a splash and surprises “everyone”. That gets quotes around it because what that phrase really means is that the winner or the contender or the entertainer was not the popular choice, but they fought through adversity and they came out victorious in whatever realm they were competing.
Rahal Steps into the Spotlight
Graham Rahal has been that underdog in the Verizon IndyCar Series the past few seasons. His talents were showcased properly at a couple tracks, such as Belle Isle in 2014, and the world saw what Graham and his team already knew – he can contend with the big names in IndyCar, hold his own, and have success. Those glimpses of greatness are becoming more frequent in 2015.
On a personal note and in addition to the underdog status, I get excited for Rahal when he finds that success because we are both from Ohio, and quite frankly, it’s an awesome state. We also happen to drive awesome cars with Honda HPD engines (even though mine, strangely, is a GM vehicle – further proof I just can’t pick a favorite!), not to mention that my very first Indy 500 was at the age of 3, in May of 1986… and guess who won? Graham’s father, Bobby Rahal. Their family is partially responsible for instilling the love of IndyCar in me since I was a toddler. It was great seeing the Rahal family doing so well and enjoying their accomplishments yesterday – Bobby summed it up perfectly:
“This is a kid that’s got tremendous talent… Everybody’s clicking and what this does for your confidence is (huge). A confident driver is the most powerful weapon you’ve got in your bag.”
It’s easy to see why I can’t help but be stoked for him as he discovers his potential and the starts producing results that match it. Rahal was the biggest mover in yesterday’s race – starting from P17 and finishing on podium in P2. During the first round of pit stops, he advanced from P17 to P6 and then on 2nd round of pit stops, he moved up 4 spots into P2. He maintained that position for the duration of the race.
Kimball Finds Top 5 for First Time in 2015
Charlie Kimball, in the No. 83 for Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, also had a great day that highlighted his abilities behind the wheel. He finished the GP of Indy in P5, the same result as last year’s inaugural event. In 2014, he fought through traffic from the back of the pack (P23) in order to get in the Top 5, and yesterday he did it from P14 in Row 7. This was his best finish of the year.
Up until the GP of Indy, Kimball had struggled to break into the Top 10 in 2015, with his best finish occurring at Barber in P12. He actually led a lap here in Indianapolis during one of the pit cycles. Kimball left the track refreshed and feeling ready for more, “We’ll definitely take the momentum from this solid finish into the rest of the month of May.” Hopefully leading that lap and the renewed sense of self-assurance is foreshadowing of things to come for Kimball later this month and throughout the year.
Helio’s Historic Career Start
Helio Castroneves was also a big story of the weekend. Yesterday’s race was the 3-time Indy 500 Champion’s 300th career start! The Team Penske driver has more history with this track than most in the current field of drivers. He celebrated his 100th career start here at IMS back in 2003 and has found victory here in triplicate form as aforementioned. That start was nearly his third victory in a row at the Brickyard, “I finished second. The bad part wasn’t losing to my teammate (Gil de Ferran), it was having such a dominant car. In a place that is very rare for you to do that, and finish second, that was one of my best driving times plus qualifying was incredible too.” He was alluding to the fact that he won the pole that year as well!
Castroneves has started from the pole four times total for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, with the others being in 2007, 2009 (leading to third 500 victory), and 2010. He has led 285 laps at this Speedway, between the oval and the newly-renovated road course. He finished P6 in yesterday’s race, his 194th Top 10 career result.
Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis – By the Numbers
So how are those aero kits treating us? And how did the beautiful weather affect the outcomes of the weekend? Well, the field was definitely faster than last year. The average speed of the race jumped from 96.462 to 116.842 mph. Lack of cautions assisted with bumping up that average – we only had 2 caution laps over 1 yellow this weekend, whereas 19 caution laps were completed under 4 yellows in 2014.
The margin of victory actually increased, moving from .8906 sec between Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay last year to 1.5023 sec between Power and Rahal yesterday. The stat that was most surprising to me, was that of fastest lap. In the inaugural year, Dixon hit 124.711 mph and this year Hinch held that title with a best lap speed of 123.911 mph.